Wright Foundation | January 31, 2018

How to Be a Leader at Work: Avoid the Drama

We all want to experience more success in our career.

The best way to be great leader at work is to avoid the drama.

Maybe you wonder how to be a good leader at work and worry you’re missing out on opportunities to get ahead. Could you be taking a different approach? Without realizing it, you may be sabotaging your own success.

Think back to the last time something went wrong at work. Maybe you received negative feedback from a manager. Perhaps a project didn’t turn out as planned or a client was upset. I want you to think of a time when things got really messed up. How did you react?


You know what? Unless you said, “it was my fault and I took direct steps to fix it,” you were engaged in what I like to call, “Stinking Thinking.” Why do we call it that? Because it stinks! This type of thinking is based on three components: blame, shame, and justification. All of them just reek. Stinking thinking sabotages our chance to get ahead. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot.

If you want more power at work, at home, and in your social life, you must stop putting yourself in a position of being the victim. Stinking thinking holds us back from being a good leader at work.

Why We’re Used to Victimhood

Like it or not, we’ve all fallen into stinking thinking and the vicious cycle of the drama triangle. The drama triangle consists of a victim, a persecutor, and a rescuer. We may float around through all three of these roles or we may consistently fall into one. But here’s the kicker—if you fall into any of them, it’s a sign you’re addicted to bringing on the drama.

Maybe you grew up in a household where you were constantly rescuing a younger brother or sister. Perhaps you mirror the same “superhero” mentality in your relationship with your friends or spouse. You may even seek out people who are victims or who allow themselves to hand over their personal power, so you can act the hero and swoop in to fix it.

On the flip side, you may be the one who turns to friends to “vent” or fix it when sh*t hits the fan. You might reach out immediately when your boss reprimands you, because you need the reassurance and rescuing of a coworker or buddy. You need someone to tell you what you want to hear, because you’re not harnessing your own strength.

The third side of the triangle is the persecutor. Falling into this position may happen inadvertently or unconsciously, but if you catch yourself reveling in tearing someone down or knocking them down a peg, then you may be the persecutor. If you always must be right, don’t listen, or simply use your power to exert control over others in the situation, then you might be falling into the triangle too.

When we’re in the drama triangle we might switch roles. We seek out the reoccurring patterns because they’re familiar and comfortable. We tell ourselves it’s our boss’s fault because they’re the persecutor. We ask our coworkers to fix it for us, because we’re trying to connect with them and gain their approval.

Stop the Drama

The drama triangle robs us of our power. It puts us in a vicious cycle where we aren’t moving forward. We’re continuing to chase our tails with blame, shame and justification. We’re not learning and growing. We aren’t coming from a place of transformation, but dwelling in a place of stagnation—a swamp.

The way to find your power, strength and authority at work, is to stop being the victim. Don’t allow yourself to give your power away and seek rescue. Don’t allow yourself to justify mistakes and get bogged down with excuses.

Instead, take responsibility for your behavior. Speak up. If you make a mistake say, “Yeah, I screwed up. I want to fix this.” Then listen and take deliberate steps to resolve the situation.

At the same time, don’t take the blame for situations that aren’t your fault! Over-apologizing, approaching situations timidly and biting our tongue comes from wanting to avoid confrontation.

Confrontation is healthy! It’s time to get direct. Confrontation is expression and getting your feelings out there.

Many of us are afraid to say what we feel because we think we don’t want to hurt feelings. In reality, we don’t want to cause others to like us less. We want their approval. Saying what others what to hear, while you’re secretly upset leads to resentment and passive-aggression.

Fred Rogers (as in Mr. Rogers) has a great quote, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

It’s the feelings we don’t talk about and we don’t mention that haunt us. So, speak up! Let it out. Stand up for yourself and don’t look to others to rescue you.

When we make mistakes, it’s a chance to learn. With our graduate students, we ENCOURAGE mistakes. Mistakes are great! Mistakes mean you’re putting yourself out there. You’re engaging and trying new techniques. Celebrate your mistakes rather than hiding from them. They’re a vital part of growth.

So, the next time you screw up royally at the office, embrace it. Take responsibility and offer resolutions over excuses. Ask yourself what lesson is available in the situation. What did you learn so you ensure this doesn’t happen again? If you have a strong take-away from the experience, then it’s a success no matter how bad the mistake. Chances are, if you embrace it as a learning opportunity, you’ll never make the same mistake again (and if you do, extract the next lesson).

Go forth, make mistakes and discover the power that comes when you embrace responsibility. Stop approaching situations as a victim or falling into the trap of stinking thinking. Learn and move forward!

To learn more about harnessing your personal power, please take a look at our new course offerings. We offer many of our great lessons and instructions in a downloadable format. Right now, they’re priced at a special introductory rate, so I encourage you to explore them. They’re fantastic. Join us for an upcoming class or networking event in-person as well. You’ll meet other transformational thinkers and form great connections!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University

Photo by Paul Bence on Unsplash.