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Leadership Mentality - Victim - Main

One of the great challenges of leadership is that we are always working within constraints. These constraints can see us falling into a victim leadership mentality, where we feel like we can’t make any progress or change.

Rarely do leaders have everything they really want. There is normally not enough money to do all you want (or need) to do. You probably don’t have all the right people, skills or experience you want in your team. There probably isn’t enough time to deliver all the initiatives you would like to.

Sometimes when leaders are faced with these constraints, they stop trying to make change. Instead of pushing to improve, they’ll wait until something changes by itself.

Unfortunately, it almost never does.

Victim vs. Abundant Leadership Mentality

A victim leadership mentality means that you believe that everything is happening to you. You feel like you’re unable to do anything about your situation.

I’ve certainly been there before in some leadership roles, and I’ll bet you probably have too.

You feel helpless, like the world is doing things to you and you’re powerless to change them.

Victim Leadership Mentality - MainOften for many leaders, this comes and goes in waves. Sometimes we feel on top of things and filled with motivation to improve. Other times, it’s all too hard.

However, when a victim leadership mentality persists for too long, it can become the default way of operating.

A contrast to the victim leadership mentality is one of abundance. An abundant mindset is one that views the world as full of opportunity.

In an abundant mode, we feel the motivation to make change and we feel relaxed, inspired and we can see the available possibilities.

Leaders achieve more and inspire confidence in others when they have an abundant mindset. However, this is not easy to maintain in our challenging workplaces!

A victim leadership mentality is easy to fall into, because it can feel comfortable to assume that you have no control over your situation. Then you can tell yourself “it’s not my fault.” However, being a passive observer who fails to take action is your fault, isn’t it?

Learn More:  You Lead By Example. What Mindset Are You Encouraging?

Your Leadership Mentality In Action

Leaders with a victim leadership mentality believe the world is fixed. They believe that they have to work with whatever they have, and they can’t make change.

Here are some of the common situations I see that demonstrate a stark contrast between a victim and abundant leadership mentalities. You may find some of them familiar!

1. Resource Constraints

Leaders often find themselves wishing they had more resources to help them deliver on their priorities. However, the best resources aren’t necessarily easy to find, and of course, they cost money.

Therefore, many leaders make do with the situation they have. They struggle through deadlines and work longer and longer hours, believing they have no other options.


However, if you can take a step back and look at the possibilities, you may have some other options. For example, you could:

  • Actually speak with your manager about resourcing or the workload in your team. I have coached several leaders who simply assume their boss will say “no”. But they had never *actually* tried to start a proper conversation about it (until the coaching!), or tried to make a decent case for change.
  • Up-skill your team members. Personally, I always just assume that my team members can learn new skills and do new things. Some leaders simply believe that their people aren’t good enough or can’t develop the right skills. Sure, there are some areas that require super-specialist expertise, but why not give your team members a chance to step up when you can?
  • Look at options to share resources. Are there people in other areas of your organisation who could lend a helping hand? Maybe you can do a deal with a colleague to get some assistance. You never know unless you start a conversation.

These are just a few options. There are possibilities to make change. Often it comes down to believing it’s possible and taking the first step.

Learn More:  How Leaders Can Improve Team Performance Through Cross Training.

2. Team Behaviour and Performance

When faced with poor team performance, victim leaders lament that their people are lazy and useless. This stops them from taking action. Instead, they complain about their people to anyone who will listen.

Here are some statements you might hear from someone with a victim leadership mentality:

  • “She’s useless, she’ll never be able to do it”
  • “He won’t take any accountability” (why not try my Team Accountability Builder Course?)
  • “I have to fix up every mistake that my team makes”.

Now, some of these statements may feel true for you on the surface. But it’s important to note that a lot of team performance and behaviour issues are allowed to happen because of the leadership of the team.

Victim Leadership Mindset - Cage - Main

When you start to realise that you have a say in how your team operates and that you set the rules, magical things can happen.

You can enforce consequences for poor work and behaviour, apply consistent standards within the team, provide feedback and maintain the right oversight … and there are many more options!

The performance of your team is up to you. If you can open your mind to the possibilities, you can make positive change. See the links below for some more resources that might help you.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #87: How to Fix Behaviour Issues In Your Team

Learn More:  Seeing Performance Issues In Your Team? Try These Things.

Learn More:  4 Ways Leaders Damage Accountability in the Workplace.

3. Poor Workplace Conditions

Many leaders around the world are putting up with horrible bosses, negative organisational cultures and generally poor workplace conditions.

As just one person, it’s easy to believe that you can’t make any meaningful change. It definitely is difficult to change a company culture as a solitary person, even if you’re the CEO!

However, if we simply stand by and put up with all the rubbish that is thrown at us, we are really just reinforcing the behaviours and culture that we despise.

Here are two good reasons why leaders are best-placed to take action:

  1. Leaders are role models. You might not feel like it, but people are looking at what you do. So when you stand by and watch bad things happen, that’s what other people will do too.
  2. Leaders have authority. In general, leaders have some authority to make decisions and affect meaningful change. You may not be able to fix everything you want straight away, but sometimes you need to start with a simple conversation to get things moving.

Small, consistent actions over time can set the tone for a better workplace. When leaders give up and stop trying, all the good work is undone.

And if you keep trying and don’t get anywhere, it might be time to adjust your approach, or look for another organisation where your efforts may be appreciated.

Learn More:  Thoughtful Leader Podcast #43: Is a Fear of Leaving Your Job Making You a Worse Leader?

Some Final Words On Your Leadership Mentality

It can feel comfortable to play the victim and watch the world pass you by. That way, you let yourself off the hook … “It’s not my fault” or “I can’t do anything about it”.

Your situation may seem difficult, or even hopeless. When you read this post, you may even be thinking “that would never work in my role” or “my boss would never agree to that”.

But if you fail to believe that change is possible, ask yourself the question – how is a victim leadership mentality serving you?

If you believe you can’t make change – then it’s true. So believe you can instead.

If you feel like you could do with some support to make change in your leadership role, click here to contact me about coaching and apply for your Discovery Coaching Session. 📅 👈

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