Episode #18: Dysfunction of Self-Disempowerment

Leaders today spend a lot of time trying to figure out why they can’t get the level of engagement and performance from their employees that they require despite their best efforts. Their energy and time also go into trying to “fix” their employees, compensate for unsatisfactory performance, and “rescue” them when they are in emotional distress. So many organizations spend their money and other resources trying to deal with employee disengagement and performance issues without any success.

Typically, leaders will end up wondering about what’s wrong with the employees, without considering the role they play in the situation. They could be contributing to the issue through dysfunctional, self-protective leadership behaviors such as, doing their employees’ work when they fail to meet expectations, reteaching tasks that have already been taught, or failing to delegate for fear of overwhelming the team. Any of these starting to sound familiar? At the end of the day, deciding to compensate for poor performance instead of managing it is an act of self-disempowerment that is self-protective and is a function of the Victim Leadership Persona.

In today’s episode, Anne & Heather explore the Dysfunction of Self-Disempowerment and share some real client stories that illustrate just how common it is to find this type of leadership behavior in organizations today. They’ll also share some practical tips that you can use if the Dysfunction of Self-Disempowerment is causing leaders in your organization to act like victims after giving their power away to employees. 

If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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  • [01:41] Episode introduction and overview 
  • [02:37] What is the Dysfunction of Self-Disempowerment? 
  • [04:32] The leader’s self-protective shift 
  • [06:34] Archetypal Survival Personas at work 
  • [10:46] When do leaders use the Victim Persona? 
  • [19:38] Leaders use the Victim Persona to cause self-disempowerment 
  • [24:52] The Victim Persona causes leaders to act like victims of time 
  • [37:43] Episode gem & practical takeaway 
  • [39:28] Episode wrap up



  • When employees don’t behave the way leaders expect them to, leaders get triggered into self-protective, emotionally driven behaviors based on the fight or flight mechanism in the brain. The fight response causes them to get angry or frustrated and act out by overpowering their employees. With the flight response, they give their power away, silently seething and putting on the mask that most leaders wear when they don’t know how to effectively manage performance, insubordination, or give corrective feedback. 
  • In the psychological realm of the Self-protective System resides 4 Archetypes of Survival, or “personas” that our authentic self pulls out when we feel threatened. These shields have a connection to Jung’s four mental functions located in neural networks in the brain. When we shift to our shields, we start using the behaviors and characteristics of the Persona we need to shield us from the perceived psychological threat. Each Persona has its own agenda, story, and script. When we operate from any of the different Personas, it’s like letting another person be in the driver’s seat of our life. 
  • The Victim Leadership Persona has to do with self-disempowerment. When acting from its energies, it takes away our power and sense of personal agency by seeing situations through the lens of helplessness and inability to do anything other than to let things happen. 
  • When leaders use the Victim Leadership Persona, they interpret the actions and behaviors of people and events through a lens of what they feel they are entitled to, and what others aren’t giving them. 
  • The Victim Leadership Persona is triggered by the fear that if their position, power and authority are asserted, employees won’t be able to handle it and will be upset. They allow employees to do their job the way they see fit rather than having any direction, coaching or guidance, for fear of offending them. 
  • When an employee is in the Victim Persona, they act as though leaders should know how sensitive they are and treat them accordingly. 
  • The Victim Leadership Persona makes decisions from an “I can’t” mentality and uses self-devaluing / self-victimizing self-talk to stop themselves from using their power. 


"Deciding to compensate for poor performance instead of managing it is an act of self- disempowerment."
episode 18 quote tile 2 - "When acting from the Victim Leadership Persona, our power and sense of personal agency is taken away by seeing situations through a  lens of helplessness."
episode 18 quote tile 3 - "Self-disempowerment starts from within. Leaders need to recognize when they are keeping their self-esteem low."
episode 18 - quote tile 4 - "Leaders need to watch that they aren't being pulled into the position  of rescuer when interacting with employees."

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