Victim – Leader


Empowering discussions focus on that which you can control.



Limiting the scope of your discussions to that which you can control means taking responsibility and refusing to blame others for what they do “to” you. It can be exhausting, but it is highly productive.       


Great leaders and high performance teams listen carefully to the tone and direction of their conversations. They can identify when a group begins to lose its power by complaining about things it can’t affect, and blaming others for its own lack of effectiveness. This is the sound of a VICTIM: “If Congress would just do their job, we could do ours.” There’s nothing to be gained by wishing that things we can’t control were different.


Leaders identify when groups operate from a sense of empowerment and a can-do attitude; effective leaders help victim-oriented groups regain their power, and help empowered groups sustain theirs. The VICTIM – LEADER PRIME is the “nuclear PRIME,” because when it’s brought to a group’s attention, they hate it. They absolutely hate it! Being the VICTIM is much easier than being the LEADER


In any conversation, groups move toward being LEADERS or VICTIMS. They talk either about things they can do, or about what’s being done to them. Once this PRIME is distinguished, the group becomes directly responsible for tolerating victimhood. This awareness makes what once was easy become suddenly unpleasant and intolerable.


Taking responsibility at all times - being the cause - may feel like a huge burden; therefore, VICTIM – LEADER is one of the few PRIMES that may be best introduced sparingly. The greatest value of the VICTIM – LEADER PRIME may be to you, but pay close attention to which way the group is headed. Guide them toward talking about things they can control. That’s where their power is stored.



Listen for when groups slip into discussing things outside their control and using them as excuses for why they are not more effective. When this happens, guide them back to focusing on that which they can affect.



Many groups spend all their productive energy complaining about that which they cannot impact. Even when they don’t like it, groups that genuinely care about making a difference will appreciate the opportunity to shift into their power.

Trust the Universe

The Universe helps people who live boldly.



Most people envision only to the limits of what they know how to achieve. But when you envision beyond what you know, the Universe reveals all you need to succeed. 


People who envision only what they know how to achieve miss the fact that they can’t possibly know all the resources the Universe has to bring to their aid.  But once they’ve made their DECLARATION  and TRUST THE UNIVERSE they start to notice everything they didn’t know of before they declared, including resources right under their nose, and opportunities that providence appears to bring their way.


The truth about TRUST THE UNIVERSE is there’s no guarantee of success, no matter how bold or noble the declaration. People do get hurt. They risk everything and some lose everything. There are no secret codes, and every revolutionary leader who stands up to regale an audience with “The Formula” for unfettered success, does so in retrospect.


We didn’t land on the Moon without crashing a few rockets. Great leaders agree that failure often provides the most important elements for success.


TRUST THE UNIVERSE isn’t about finding faith and being assured of success. Without a doubt, there are people who put no stock in the Universe and have achieved positions of wealth and notoriety. For a leader, however, ignoring providence and all its potential is not an option. Great leaders struggle with the same challenges, frustrations, doubts, setbacks, and humiliations as everyone else. Leaders understand that, although TRUST THE UNIVERSE holds no guarantees, it makes it possible to get up every morning, start every day, imagine every possibility, create every vision, and, sometimes, achieve the unimaginable.


Consensus is unanimous on one fact: if the Universe doesn’t engage with you, whatever you do won’t matter; therefore, TRUST THE UNIVERSE is a prerequisite to any big leap.



Make your DECLARATION boldly and beyond what you know how to achieve.  TRUST THE UNIVERSE to bring you the resources, insights and opportunities to help you. You may need to refine your declaration periodically to bring more your way.



TRUST THE UNIVERSE ensures that you will only see the resources to help you create what you can envision. Your vision sets your limits, so envision boldly!



People have different motivations; inspire them all.


When the STAKE is stated powerfully, in terms of it’s impact on the Heart, the Head and the WalletCHANGE and TRANSFORMATION become possible. A weakly stated STAKE keeps groups entrenched in the status quo.          


After you’ve enlisted others in bold effort to achieve the extraordinary, questions and doubts arise — all perfectly reasonable — among the same people who heeded your call and pledged their support. STAKE is a key element of the CORE PRIME and it reveals six components of a robust answer to the question, “What’s at STAKE?”


Before any CHANGE or TRANSFORMATION can occur, people must be convinced; therefore, the STAKE must operate on an organizational, community, and personal level. We start by closely examining our powerful STAKE conversation, dissecting the patterns it reveals, and from those revelations we make the case for change.


The STAKE illustration shows three basic ways that people listen:

  • Analytical people listen with their Heads.
  • Emotional people listen with their Hearts.
  • Financially motivated people listen with their Wallets.


When you’re up to something big that requires enrolling a large group, there will be a mix of all three types of people. You must address each of their unique ways of listening.


Powerful STAKE conversations must have negative aspects (what to avoid or PUSH away from) and positive aspects (what people desire and want to PULL toward them). 



When making the case for your vision, you must speak to the Heart, the Head and the Wallet and address the negative aspects of staying put as well as the benefits of moving ahead.



Without a shared agreement of the six dimensions of what’s at STAKECHANGE and TRANSFORMATION are virtually impossible to effect, because some population will be unconvinced that it is necessary or worth the price.



Give your word and keep it – over and over again.


Your trust in another is a function of your experience with that person’s keeping promises. Think of trust as a fluid in a bucket. The bucket fills with trust when people make and keep promises. The bucket drains when people break their promises.

Some people start out new relationships with trust buckets filled. Others start new relationships with trust buckets empty and need to experience promise fulfillment to let the trust bucket get full.

Repeated BREACHES of INTEGRITY make it difficult for the trust bucket to ever get refilled. A full trust bucket is one of the highest valued assets two or more people can share.


Look for opportunities to demonstrate the fact you keep your word—no matter how small or big the request. This displays your integrity, which builds TRUST with others.


TRUST between two or more people means there is no need to worry about someone completing a task or not. Time is no longer wasted checking in on statuses of other employees and guiding them through problems. TRUST keeps the group’s focus entirely on date-certain outcomes.

Shape Shifting


Lead collaboratively or authoritatively, explicitly and intentionally.


Leaders can join the group in collaborative decision-making, or rely on their organizational Authority to make decisions. People will accept either when they are explicit and intentionally stated. SHAPE SHIFTING, declaring one and doing the other, violates the group's trust.  


Every group needs and wants a leader. Two of the many types of leaders are characterized in this PRIME:

  1. Leaders who put themselves into a Collaborative relationship with their group; they roll up their sleeves, brainstorm as peers, and help formulate recommendations. Collaboration typically generates recommendations, as opposed to decisions.
  2. Leaders who assume a hierarchical and authoritarian relationship with the group and use their organizational Authority to make decisions.

Both roles are useful. The key is for leaders to be explicit about which role they take. The most common mistake is for leaders to declare a collaborative relationship with the group and then make authoritative decisions. This changing of roles is called “SHAPE SHIFTING.”


Some decisions necessitate creativity, innovation, and the involvement and wisdom of a group. Other situations require a quick decision. Effective leaders understand how decisions are made. As stated by the LEADERSHIP SPECTRUM PRIME, you must be as skilled in Collaboration as you are in Command and Control relationships with your team. The SHAPE SHIFTING PRIME reveals potential dangers, as you navigate between these two styles.


A leader SHAPE SHIFTS when he or she declares a collaborative relationship to generate ideas, becomes caught up in the spirit of the exchange, and suddenly shouts out something like, “Bill, that’s a great idea! Let’s do that!” Instantly, the process is overtaken by hierarchy, no matter how the chairs are arranged. The leader SHAPE SHIFTED and used his or her organizational authority to behave differently from everyone else.


To avoid the often fatal mistake of SHAPE SHIFTING, you must adhere to three practices:

  1. Distinguish between a Collaborative relationship with the group and an Authoritarian relationship. Master the best practices of each.
  2. Intentionally and explicitly choose one role or the other, based on the situation.
  3. Don’t shift from one role to another, if it can be avoided. If you must shift — typically from Collaboration to Authoritarian — forewarn the group explicitly. Remember, it’s almost impossible to return to Collaboration once the shift has been made.


Be explicit about whether each particular interaction is Authoritative or Collaborative. Be explicit if you decide to shift from one to the other and don’t shift relationships with a group in any single meeting. Collaborate with them one day, and use your organizational authority at a later time to make a decision.



When a leader SHAPE SHIFTS, people shut down immediately because their own role in the process has become unclear and they lose faith in the decision-making process. Avoid SHAPE SHIFTING.

The PRIMES featured at TEDx Rockcreek