I’m not naïve to the fact that we live in a fear-driven world; you don’t have to look far to see that it is sorely infected by an epidemic of mistrust. With that being said, I cannot allow my highest and best to succumb under the weight of pessimism and cynicism. I refuse to allow the minority to sculpt my worldview or frustrate my purpose. I must continue to live and lead believing that people are inherently good as I choose to extend trust and believe the best of others.

I do not have my head in the sand and I do have a “boatload” of experience with liars and manipulators. This school of hard knocks has become a springboard of understanding that has armed me with tools to recognize and confront these perpetrators of injustice.


Two types of manipulators:

  1. The first are the subconscious controllers who feel powerless and, as a result, develop character traits of “taking and getting” rather than “contributing and giving.” Almost every human being steps into these characteristics when motivated by fear. However, if these individuals are teachable, we have a great opportunity as leaders to help them recognize and overcome.
  2. The second are the conscious manipulators who perfect their deceptive trade. They become skillful in their dishonesty and their practices are immoral and devious.

Here are some ways to help in identifying perps of injustice:

They make you feel that only they are the solution! This is the worm on the hook because at this point the lie is so hidden that you can’t see that you’re being baited.

Here’s an example: My almost 92-year-old mother had a problem with her computer and she came to me for help (her first mistake! Ha!) I was on the phone with tech support—or so I thought—as they assured me that they could solve the problem. Everything about the conversation was initially professional and I felt secure—this was the trap! As the conversation continued I began to see the red flags of a manipulative perpetrator. The red flags began to become more evident as he tried to silence my questioning and I observed his customer service protocols. It did not take long before I recognized that my mother was being targeted by a manipulator.

Red Flag #1: Quickly irritated. A manipulator has an objective to take something from you. The moment you question, challenge, or ask for authenticity they begin to display an edge of impatience. If a person is genuine, on the other hand, they welcome inquiry knowing they are able to substantiate their claims and validate their honorable motives.

Red Flag #2: Degrading demeanor. This individual will treat you in a way that portrays their superiority. If you require accountability, request proof for what is presented, or require explanations for actions their anxiety will begin to leak out through their subtle or overt lecture of how inept you are.

Red Flag #3: Escalated emotional response or hardline reactions. The manipulator is now losing their sense of power as you are becoming more aware of their identifying traits of manipulation. Their fear of exposure thrusts them into an aggressive posture.

Ref Flag #4: Threats and intimidation. A few years ago one of my staff received a call that they owed a certain amount of money that needed to be paid immediately or the police were going to come and arrest them. Now, she did not owe money and it was an obvious scam artist, but she was so fearful by their threatening that she was ready to pay the money! A manipulator’s last ditch effort is to create fear. Threats of loss, harm, failure, rejection, and a barrage of impending doom are thrown at you. The manipulator must keep you in a subservient position in order to remain in control and take from you what benefits them.


“When you do not let a controller control they will be positioned to either mature or quickly leave you for someone they can manipulate.” 


As justice-minded leaders, we give ourselves to noble causes and business endeavors that can impact our society for good. You must protect your vision from the toxicity of manipulators and those who piggyback on your labor for their own gain at your expense.   

You’ll never lead perfectly and you won’t always see the hidden agendas of practiced manipulators immediately. However, when the red flags become visible, you must confront them to protect the vision that has been entrusted to you. This process builds you so that you can face your future with optimism!


From one leader to another,

Dr. Melodye Hilton

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