Some people I’ve worked with have what we might think of as that victim mentality. The Leadership Style instrument I use (LSI from Human Synergistics) measures two areas titled Dependent and Avoidance that collectively describe a style that starts with the assumption that they are the victim in most circumstances. Some of the descriptions include:
A tendency to be easily influenced, not taking independent action
A strong tendency to deny responsibility or accountability
A passive attitude
Feelings of helplessness and/or guilt over real or imagined mistakes
The presence of rapid change or traumatic set-backs
A lack of self-respect
Extreme fear of failure
Someone asked me the other day what was the opposite of the victim mentality. That ignited a lively dialogue which came to the conclusion that Creativity is the opposite of victim mentality. Isn’t that a great picture? If we eliminate policies, procedures, governance, or leadership styles that create or assume a victim mentality, we unleash creativity. Although my work is focused on leadership within corporations, the first thing that came to mind was our law makers. Start evaluating all of the bills that are coming through congress (or ones that have been part of the landscape for many years) and begin to evaluate them in terms of “Do they create victims or do they instill creativity?” Many of the laws of this nation seem to start with the assumption that you are (or should be) a victim. And then they tend to perpetuate that belief. Our only opportunity in this rapidly changing global economy is to be creative and innovative. Shouldn’t we stop passing laws that push us toward or assume we are or should be victims?
But, closer to home, can you evaluate your or others leadership style on this victim-creativity balance beam? It’s always easiest to see it in others but the first step in great leadership is self-awareness, self-assessment, and humility. Have a discussion with your team. Maybe start by evaluating the group of people that work for you. Do they behave as victims or creators? What about our leadership style is causing that? How do we change the way we lead to increase the creative nature of our company?
My wife and I recently had the opportunity to listen to Condoleezza Rice when she made a speaking engagement in our home town. During the question and answer period one of the first question was “How did a young person of color from Birmingham, Alabama make it all the way to Secretary of State?” The first words out of her mouth without hesitation were “We were never allowed to be victims!”