Created By: Earnest on October 13, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on December 25, 2012

Taking Flak For Leadership

Everyone\\\'s a critic of a leader\\\'s decisions

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Trope
"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

When The Leader makes an unpopular move to further the team's goals, at least one character will disagree and blame them for any and all negative effects, regardless of whether they were known as effects by the leader beforehand. This isn't limited to life or death situations where the leader justifiably did what was necessary and someone had to die. This criticism can be anywhere from a justifiable "What the hell, leader?" to whiny and ungrateful snarking over something petty.

It bears mentioning that Tropes Are Not Bad, and this trope can serve to turn a bland Standardized Leader into a more tragic, Rounded Character. However, this trope can be poorly handled if the criticisms are unfounded, immature or excessive. In extreme cases this snarking can be leveled at the leader for things that might have happened, or for things they had no control over and no reasonable way of foreseeing/predicting. If the snarker acknowledges the leader's accomplishment(s) at all, it will be followed by an "But at what cost?"

The leader's attitude towards these criticisms can be any of the following: silently bearing it without getting more than a quick interjection in, angrily demanding what they'd have done differently (most Commander Contrarians blank at this), or jadedly admiting that they'd do it again in order to get the mission done. One especially poignant rejoinder is for the leader to explain, in detail, how The Chains of Commanding means every mistake is remembered and no ammount of outside recrimination can compare. Their own conscience is a harsher judge.

There's also constructive criticism, which is neither What the Hell, Hero? nor mindless rebellion. In this case, expect the protagonist to act conceited, reject the criticism (on the grounds of, well... "Not Now, Kiddo") and end up screwing things up. So he learns the hard way that he should listen to his teammates once in a while.

This is commonly a prerogative of the Sarcastic Devotee and the Servile Snarker.

This is frequently the response to democratically elected leaders by their opponents, so this trope is very much Truth in Television. Do we want. Real Life section?

Comic Books
  • X-Men leader Scot Summers and team founder Charles Xavier are frequent targets of this.

Film
  • Serenity. After finding Haven devastated by an Alliance attack, Captain Mal decides that the only way to get the Alliance off their backs is to alter the Serenity so it looks like a Reaver ship and go through the Reaver zone to reach the planet Miranda. His crew immediately and loudly objects to this decision, leading to him telling them that they can either go with him or stay at Haven.
    • Earlier in the movie, Mal has to deal with Jayne wanting to leave Simon and River due to the latter being unstable, leading to this exchange:
    Mal: "Do you want to run this ship?"
    Jayne: "Yes!"
    Mal: "Well... You can't..."

Literature
  • Jake got flack in Animorphs for his endgame decisions on the Pool Ship.
  • Disney's old Swamp Fox series had an episode where Marion got flack for forgetting about the war and hunting down the man who killed his nephew. He was smart enough to realise his mistake and get his focus back.

Live-Action TV
  • Lost's Jack Shephard embodies this trope; it's a crucial part of his characterization for many seasons.
    "Everybody wants me to be a leader until I make a decision they don't like."
  • In Scrubs JD spends an episode proving a patient's anosmia wasn't cause by the treatment he gave him. At the end, Dr. Cox calls him out and explains that taking the blame for a moment (even when the patient knows it's his own fault, as it was in this case since said patient had had a lot of nose surgery) is part of the responsibility of being a doctor.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, when Spock was in command of a shuttle when his landing party was stranded on a dangerous planet in "The Galileo Seven", he got all sorts of flak.
  • When Data took command in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a number of crewmates questioned his decisions.
  • Happy Days: When Richie gets promoted to corporal in his high school's ROTC unit Potsie & Ralph are happy for him, until the find out he'll make them do follow orders. They decide to Bother by the Book, doing exactly what he says to do rather than what he might mean.

Western Animation
  • Aqualad in Young Justice was on the receiving end of this for not telling his team that he suspected there was a mole. While his reasons for not telling them were perfectly well founded, no one was really interested in hearing them in preference of teenage drama. (Though in their defence, they are teens and Aqualad is new to leading).

Wrestling
  • In a WWE arc, Vince Macmahon deliberately tried to execute this trope on Bret Hart (who had held a perpetual grudge over Vince due to the Montreal Screwjob), appointing him as General Manager to show him how being a good businessman means making decisions that aren't always popular. Indeed Bret very quickly upsets the younger Harts with his decisions. However Vince couldn't resist gleefully firing him before this trope reached any further.

Video Games
  • In Mass Effect 1, Commander Shepard has to make a Sadistic Choice of leaving one of two squadmates stranded on Virmire to die by nuke. Afterwards, the other one will call out Shepard on making the wrong choice, regardless of what you actually choose.
  • Mass Effect 2 sees Shepard be criticized by some squadmates if s/he chooses to give the Collector base to Cerberus.

Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • October 13, 2011
    yogyog
    I'm a little confused by the description. Do you mean that the leader takes the blame for the hero's actions? Or the leader takes the blame for his own actions?
  • October 13, 2011
    Earnest
    Sorry about that, hero=leader in the above, but I'll rewrite to make it clearer.
  • October 14, 2011
    Koveras
    This is commonly a prerogative of the Sarcastic Devotee and the Servile Snarker.
  • October 14, 2011
    pure.Wasted
    Lost's Jack Shephard embodies this trope; it's a crucial part of his characterization for many seasons.

    "Everybody wants me to be a leader until I make a decision they don't like."
  • October 14, 2011
    NetMonster
    There's also constructive criticism, which is neither What The Hell Hero nor mindless rebellion. In this case, expect the protagonist to act conceited, reject the criticism (on the grounds of, well... Shut Up Kid) and end up screwing things up. So he learns the hard way that he should listen to his teammates once in a while.
  • October 14, 2011
    Fanra
    Possible page quote:

    "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."
  • October 14, 2011
    MishFish
    Julia Gillard gets quite a lot of this.
  • October 15, 2011
    Bisected8
    • In Scrubs JD spends an episode proving a patient's anosmia wasn't cause by the treatment he gave him. At the end, Dr. Cox calls him out and explains that taking the blame for a moment (even when the patient knows it's his own fault, as it was in this case since said patient had had a lot of nose surgery) is part of the responsibility of being a doctor.
  • October 15, 2011
    acrobox
    You might want to keep it consistently The Leader in the description and not The Hero. Also if this isn't similar enough to be merged into The Chains Of Commanding it should at least have a mention
  • October 15, 2011
    BlackbirdMizu
    Do you want to allow real life examples? Because you could also add the non-specific post: "In politics, it's not uncommon for politicians to be blamed for problems that existed even before they went into office".
  • October 15, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    Two Star Trek examples:

    When Spock was in command of a shuttle when his landing party was stranded on a dangerous planet in "The Galileo Seven", he got all sorts of flak.

    Likewise, when Data took command in TheNextGeneration, a number of crewmates questioned his decisions.
  • January 20, 2012
    TheHandle
    Heck, what about when Spock and Kirk jockey for command in Star Trek?
  • January 20, 2012
    chicagomel
    Jake got flack in Animorphs for his endgame decisions on the Pool Ship. Disney's old Swamp Fox series had an episode where Marion got flack for forgetting about the war and hunting down the man who killed his nephew. He was smart enough to realise his mistake and get his focus back. I probably have more but I need time to think.
  • January 21, 2012
    Koveras
    • In Mass Effect 1, Commander Shepard has to make a Sadistic Choice of leaving one of two squadmates stranded on Virmire to die by nuke. Afterwards, the other one will call out Shepard on making the wrong choice, regardless of what you actually choose.
  • January 21, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Serenity. After finding Haven devastated by an Alliance attack, Captain Mal decides that the only way to get the Alliance off their backs is to alter the Serenity so it looks like a Reaver ship and go through the Reaver zone to reach the planet Miranda. His crew immediately and loudly objects to this decision, leading to him telling them that they can either go with him or stay at Haven.
  • January 30, 2012
    Psi001
    • In a WWE arc, Vince Macmahon deliberately tried to execute this trope on Bret Hart (who had held a perpetual grudge over Vince due to the Montreal Screwjob), appointing him as General Manager to show him how being a good businessman means making decisions that aren't always popular. Indeed Bret very quickly upsets the younger Harts with his decisions. However Vince couldn't resist gleefully firing him before this trope reached any further.
  • January 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Happy Days: When Richie gets promoted to corporal in his high school's ROTC unit Potsie & Ralph are happy for him, until the find out he'll make them do follow orders. They decide to Bother by the Book, doing exactly what he says to do rather than what he might mean.
  • January 30, 2012
    Salda007
    ^^^A quote from Serenity (although it's earlier in the movie, when Jayne is complaining about River and Simon staying on the ship, I think): Mal: "Do you want to run this ship?" Jayne: "Yes!" Mal: "Well... You can't..."
  • January 30, 2012
    CrypticMirror
    I think this is a candidate for No Real Life Examples
  • December 12, 2012
    StarSword
    Yeah, No Real Life Examples Please. It's an occupational hazard (we'd be here all day) and Flame Bait.
  • December 12, 2012
    StarSword
    • Mass Effect 2 sees Shepard be criticized by some squadmates if s/he chooses to give the Collector base to Cerberus.

    And the Serenity quote belongs to an earlier scene (as Salda007 pointed out, it's the one where the crew is trying to decide if River's safe to keep on board).
  • December 24, 2012
    jatay3
    Are we allowed to limit Real Life to remarking that every single US President was subject to this whether or not he deserved it?
  • December 25, 2012
    Earnest
    Hmm... It's certainly non-partisan and true, we'd have to follow it with "and that's all that we'll say on the matter."
  • December 25, 2012
    StarSword
    ^As previously mentioned, it's a fact of life that people in power get criticized. There's nothing to be gained by listing examples and it invites flames. Put a note in the page description and No Real Life Examples Please.
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