Victims, Villains, Heroes – What Characters Are Blocking Your Success?

Leadership is a choice and sometimes we chose not to act in a leadership way. The opposite of leadership is not management – it’s DRAMA. Our favorite movies, books, and TV shows all have villains, victims, and heroes. We identify with all these characters in different ways, since at times we play them all, both at work and at home. Why is that?

The answer is simple – Drama is Easy and Kinda Fun!

This leadership thing takes a lot of time and energy. Accountability, visionary thinking, being a catalyst for others, listening, and patience – just wears us out. And frankly, we have learned that even with our best effort we may not make progress. We may not advance our career or relationships in a way we expected or deserve given all our hard work. So, it’s much easier to sit back and blame others or situations and voila – we look better.

Make fun of others in order to get ahead! We’re kind of good at it, as we have so many examples of how to do it from TV and movies. My leadership coach and friend, Tom Schulte, reminded me this discussion is like the scales of justice, where we are on one scale, and “the other guy” is next to us on the other scale. If we just dump a bag of junk or mud on their scale – they go down and we go up. So one way to look better to our bosses and family is to dump on the other guy.

Blame Game

“Hey, its not my fault.”

“I did my best. “

“I told them, they didn’t listen.”

“It’s not my job – outta my hands.”

These are the battle cries, banners and anthems of the Drama People.

Victims – Their stories are of the poor “woe, is me” nature. “There’s nothing I can do!” Which is simply a way of saying – “I’m still a great performer or person – don’t judge me like others because my territory/department/situation is different.” Sadly the victim doesn’t see that everybody’s territory is different. They can only give themselves a framework for communicating to others that demands “I can’t be judged badly because of situations out of my control – neither me nor my efforts.”

The Success Formula is E+R=O. The EVENT or situation at hand + our RESPONSE to it = the OUTCOME.

As we play the victim, it sadly becomes a recording we play over and over again to ourselves and to others, minimizing our ability to use imagination, inspire creativity, find new options, put in extra effort, and recognize the small wins.

Villains – The villains’ stories are the flipside of being overly assertive, persistent or determined and it looks like being too aggressive, belittling or demanding. We act as villains when we attack others and call them incompetent, lazy, or worthless. All this is our easy way of getting out on top. We make others the reason we aren’t winning by telling, yelling, scolding, gossiping and holding them down. We then look more right, knowledgeable, or valuable, but sadly, only in our minds or to ourselves and not to anybody else.

Heroes – Heroes say, “Ok, I’ll do it” to everything. We are smarter than they are, and we can take on more, including other people’s work.” That way Heroes can say later, “Look how busy I am,” explaining away our poor results. “They don’t know enough or aren’t capable enough; I’ll rescue you from you.” “Look out, get out of my way.” “It’s just easier for me to do this myself than count on you.” We sometimes think we’re coaching people when, as heroes, what we are really doing is correcting behaviors. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE! Coaching is to assist them in being the best they can be, correcting oftentimes is assisting them to be the best us. We can control people (compliance) or grow people (commitment), but we can’t do both.

As heroes we do all our work and theirs too. We take the credit and marvel at our achievements, only to have others feel like their opinion doesn’t matter. If we don’t allow risk taking, even if it does sometimes end in mistakes, they don’t get to learn or grow. “I never learned a thing from the putts I made” ~ Jack Nicklaus.

This drama is throughout our business and personal lives. We all, at times, go into this drama mode. It’s simply knowing when we’re there that becomes important. I share with people I work with that if we are in drama mode, “ok, let’s play around in this sandbox for a few minutes. Let’s place the blame on the other department not understanding us (we don’t understand them either) or others who say and do the wrong thing, or make stupid mistakes (of course that’s others – never us). Then we say, trying to be more like the leaders we strive to be, “Ok, we’ve ripped that up pretty good – what can we own (being accountable), and how can we make this better (being visionary), and win going forward (being a catalyst)?”

Drama can dominate our thinking and actions, if we let it, because we see it as entertainment. Or, if, as we now know more about the villain, victim, and hero characters that are blocking our success, then we can chose to be a positive leader instead of a Negative Nellie.

Which of these statements applies to you?

½ in-      “I will do my best”

All in-    “I will learn and figure out a better way and do whatever it takes!”


Leadership truly is a Choice!


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