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The Top 10 Worst Villains' Best Leadership Traits
by Dave Neal

They have their detractors, but film and literature's most infamous villains also have their devotees . . . their minions, henchmen, goons, toadies, and lackeys. Hey, just because they're horrible, despicable fiends doesn't mean they have no redeeming qualities.

Here's our Top 10 list of the worst villains' best leadership traits.

10. Victor Frankenstein -- Fire, Good Despite having plenty of brains, Victor takes some wrong turns: grave robbing and assembling a creature out of human body parts comes immediately to mind. He does, however, have a particular brilliance for taking on the status quo and chasing "the impossible." He's the type of guy who will grab a shovel, jump in, and make it happen, even when the village naysayers say it can't be done. Boundless energy and a burning mad passion can juice up any grim, lifeless endeavor.

9. HAL 9000 -- No Drama Performa For the sentient on-board computer of the spaceship Discovery, keeping his red eye on the ball means achieving his programmed directives, even if he has to pull the plug on the ship's human astronauts to do it. He may not be brimming with charisma, but HAL has an unflappable calmness in the face of crisis that most leaders would kill for. He never overheats, never shouts or stomps or pounds the desk. Prod and poke as you might, you won't jar loose the pod bay doors to his temper.

8. Lord Voldemort -- A Resssilient Rotter Warts on a hog aren't as nasty as this Dark Lord. Harry Potter's archenemy is so vile people refer to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. One name we might use is: Comeback Kid. Voldemort manages to slither back from the brink of nonexistence after failing to kill Harry as a baby; and while many of us might give up after such a catastrophic setback--and his numerous subsequent setbacks through seven books--You-Know-Who is determined to find his feet again and regain that old magic (until he's finally destroyed . . . sort of).

7. Professor Moriarty -- The Adventure of the Quiet Logician Moriarty was a math genius before he was a criminal genius. He calculates his criminal moves with the skill of a chess master, leading a network of thieves, thugs, and murderers that hold Victorian England in an odious grip. Even though this "Napoleon of Crime" tests the full powers of Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes, he manages to keep a remarkably low profile, staying securely behind the curtain. Leaders who take every opportunity to shine the spotlight on themselves might learn a valuable lesson from the Professor: success often comes more from subtle, focused support of our people behind the scenes than from trumpeting our own personal illustriousness.

6. The Terminator -- Tenacious T The guy's a machine! Relentless. His competitors' worst nightmare. While they get distracted by other things (like eating and sleeping), he's moving, grinding, pursuing his mission. Nothing gets in his way . . . for long. He absolutely will not stop until he gets what he came for.

5. The Wicked Witch of the West -- Green, Mean and Fabulous What legitimate court in the land (of Oz) would rule that Dorothy has a right to those ruby slippers? They should go to the next of kin, not to the person who dropped a house on the deceased. What a world! Even if she is evil, the WWW has every right to chase down that little goody two-shoes . . . and her little dog too. It isn't that she's jealous of Dorothy's beauty. She isn't covetous of Dorothy's innocence. She isn't green all over with any sort of envy. The WWW wouldn't give two hoots what the mirror on the wall says. She knows who she is. She loves who she is. And she revels in her beautiful wickedness. There's something to be said for that sort of enjoyment of being of YOU.

4. Count Dracula -- Vlad The Compeller "You want to drink my blood and turn me into the living dead? How enthralling!" Only Dracula has that kind of seductive pull. The tux, the cape, the title, the accent, the night moves . . . no garlic breath. We could all use a splattering of that mesmerizing power, and here are three basics from the Count's playbook to get us started. Step 1: Get invited in (you're powerless otherwise). Step 2: Look into their eyes (they're the window to the soul . . . assuming you have one). Step 3: Transform them (infuse some new blood; change their state of being; fly them to the moon).

3. The Joker -- Smilin' Jo A little batty, maybe . . . but the Joker knows the value of playful work. No task is so mundane, so onerous, that you can't put some joy and whimsy into it. Of course, to make it all a zany joke would be laughable, and the Joker's too crafty for that. Still, he never takes himself or his work too serious. Whether he's emptying a bank, menacing a throat, or poisoning a city, he finds creative ways to inject some fun. Ha ha ha ha. (Sorry.)

2. Darth Vader -- An Imperial Force He wipes out a classroom full of junior Jedi and helps blow up an entire planet. That's hard to beat in the villainy department. But he also jettisons his dark mask in the end, so we give him the number two spot on our list. As a leader, Vader rules with an iron (cyborg) grip: bullying, torturing, and terminating without blinking (that we can see). On the brighter side, no one in the galaxy commands a room like he does, just by standing in it. He has a certain je ne sais quoi . . . a presence we haven't felt since . . .

1. Hannibal Lecter -- The Curious Epicurean No one cares, you say? No one listens? Your boss, your family, your friends . . . even your shrink? You should meet Hannibal. He's really easy to talk to . . . sincerely interested and inquisitive. And so perceptive. No one will lend you an ear like he does. He really probes . . . gets to the meat of things. Maybe just set up a lunch meeting. Pull up a chair, pour a nice chianti, and tell him what's eating you.

Dave Neal may be contacted at
Dave Neal has helped develop thousands of employees and managers in organizations around the world for over 15 years. He is a senior partner at 4th Street Training. Web: Email:



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