The Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer. Elements of Stephen Karpman’s drama triangle which have real world consequences in leadership.

I’ve witnessed the triangle play out in lots of family businesses and partnerships. And it’s highly destructive! I’ve seen people reduced to tears. Relationships damaged. Partnerships broken.

It goes like this.

The Persecutor:

Takes on an aggressive, critical, or controlling stance, often asserting dominance, belittling colleagues, or actively trying to undermine their confidence.

Persecutors often justify their behavior by blaming others or claiming it is for the greater good of the partnership. However, this approach erodes trust, stifles creativity, and hampers teamwork, ultimately impeding the organization’s progress.

The Victim:

Feels helpless, disadvantaged, or oppressed. They often avoid taking responsibility and seek sympathy and assistance from others. They often use emotional outbursts to gain attention and control.

The Rescuer:

Rescuers, well, rescue. They want to “care” by stepping in to smooth troubled waters. But in my experience rescuing can create dependency, inhibit personal growth, and prevent people from developing their skills and autonomy.

And on a darker note, they often have a deeper agenda of trying to look good to meet their own inadequacies.

The fascinating aspect to all this is roles can switch in an instant. The persecutor becomes the victim – “Poor me”. The victim becomes resentful and blames the persecutor – adopting their role.

You get the idea.

The point of all this is you as leaders get to decide whether you want to play this game.

My advice is to recognize the triangle and step off it so all your actions come from a place of integrity. Have deep compassion and empathy for the people you work with. Which is frankly, commercially smart!

Wrapping up, if you have any hint of this occurring in your organisation, give me a call at and we’ll help you deal with the situation

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