Leadership Caffeine™-The Cure for Tired Leader Syndrome (TLS)

A Cup of Leadership CaffeineNote from Art: this is clearly tongue in cheek, with just a bit of a biting message!

If only there were a pill to cure Tired Leader Syndrome!

If the drug companies can do it, so can I.  Pack together an entire host of symptoms, name a syndrome and produce the cure.  Of course, the difference between my cure and what we hear on our televisions is that my side-affects aren’t worse than the actual problems.

Here’s my commercial:

Announcer comes on asking, “Do these images look familiar?”

Cue the Visuals:

Scene 1: Various images of clearly demoralized workers shuffling through their work or being dressed down by the boss for their obvious poor results.

Scene 2: A group of employees huddled by the water cooler suddenly grow quiet and disperse as the boss walks by.

Scene 3: (hey, this one’s been done before, kind of, but I’m borrowing it): Shift to a visual of a boss staring out his office window at a workplace clearly in a state of turmoil, and then move to a close-up to the boss’s face with a single tear rolling down his cheek.

Cue the Audio:


  • Are you a leader that’s been in your job for a long time and suffering from the following feelings of discomfort and inadequacy?
  • Are you more concerned about protecting your job than helping your team members?
  • Do your team members stare at their hands or at the ground when you are talking with them?
  • Is your primary motivation making certain that your turf is protected at any cost?
  • Do you and your team show almost no signs of innovation, learning or continuous improvement?
  • Do the long-standing routines that you require of your team members exist solely to make your life easier?
  • Do you find yourself wondering why the idiots on your team can’t solve problems without your involvement?
  • Do you regularly feel like shooting messengers as a response to receiving bad news?
  • When you sit alone in your office, do you wonder what it would be like to truly be good at your job and enthused about your work?

If you experience one or more of these symptoms and especially the last one, you might be suffering from Tired Leader Syndrome or TLS.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  This debilitating condition affects a high percentage of leaders that have been in the same role for too long. Left untreated, TLS is often fatal to your career as well as the careers of those in constant contact with you.

However, now, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine and marketing working hand in hand, there’s a cure for Tired Leader Syndrome.

With our pill and your commitment along with a fortune in coaching and a genuine desire to improve, you too can wake up, smell the coffee and rediscover why leading is a privilege and a serious professional responsibility.

Yes, you too can rediscover that your true role is about more than building and protecting your turf. You’ll remember that you are in your role to serve and support others and to drive positive results for your organization.

As part of the process, you will rediscover your passion for encouraging, coaching and motivating others and the great feeling that comes from seeing others succeed and grow in front of your eyes.

You’ll also rediscover what it’s like to lead and work with people that respect you without fearing you.  I know, it sounds ridiculous right now, but over time, you’ll come to understand that this is possible.

It’s not easy to overcome years of bad habits and a final cure in the most severe cases might require shock therapy, including being fired and having to start over on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Cue the Next Set of Images:

Scene shows happy workers, good constructive discussion and a smiling, supportive boss that is welcomed into group discussions around the water cooler.


There are no guarantees and Tired Leader Syndrome is a serious condition.  However, now, you can talk to your Coach about this in complete privacy and if he or she deems you eligible, you can start on your prescription today and start down the road to recovery from Tired Leader Syndrome.

Cue the Final Image:

Boss looking out the window with a  smile and look of satisfaction on his face.

New, Fast Talking Announcer:

Possible side affects include the recognition that you are not fit to lead, severe stomach cramping, hang nails, toe fungus and a serious loss of self-esteem.  If symptoms worsen, see your doctor or leadership coach immediately.

The Bottom Line:

There is no miracle cure and no pill for Tired Leader Syndrome other than the recognition that leadership is truly a privilege and that you owe it to yourself and everyone around you to stay fresh, focused and committed to the role.  I’ve seen many good leaders grow tired and then wake up thanks to a new assignment, a new boss that helped revive their spirits or as part of recovering from an illness or a job loss.  I’ve also met more than a few that we’re too tired mentally and lacked the resolve to wake up and start leading again.

For those that refuse to take progress, I wish you a quick retirement.  For those that are willing to take on the fight to overcome the slings and arrows of corporate outrageousness and creeping TLS, you have my complete support and regular encouragement here at Management Excellence.  Focus and hard work are the only miracle cures that I’ve found to date.

By | 2016-10-22T17:12:02+00:00 September 28th, 2009|Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|16 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Erin Schreyer September 28, 2009 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Art – what a great read!! I love the satire and creative humor…ultimately ending with the realization that we, as leaders, must simply take responsibility for ourselves. Very well written – I thoroughly enjoyed this!

  2. Art Petty September 28, 2009 at 7:10 am - Reply

    Erin, thanks for reading and I’m glad the satire worked for you. I find it healthy to break with the traditional blogging formula to help stay fresh. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t!

    And you are so right…the responsibility is our own.

    Best, Art

  3. Nick Halen September 28, 2009 at 10:16 am - Reply

    HAHA!! If you think about it, this is exactly how they portray commercials about new drugs. They can always make it seem like you have the problem and in order to fix the problem you need whatever drug it is that they are selling. Kinda funny how they can do this to us, but not really.
    I like how you end your “commercial” and you state the facts and yes you are correct in that focus and hard work are the only ways to overcome this TLS.
    Great morning read!

  4. Art Petty September 28, 2009 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Thanks, Nick! As I mentioned to Erin, sometimes it’s fun to break up the blog format. The message is serious, but the medium can allow a little fun! Thanks for reading and commenting. -Art

  5. Mark Allen Roberts September 28, 2009 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Great post Art,
    The quickest way for leaders to snap out of TLS and start adding value is to hire a heretic as I discuss in my post : http://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/want-to-add-value-to-your-bottom-line-quicklyhire-a-heretic/

    Having played this role for over 25 years, we connect to the market and it’s problems. we get you and your team aligned about what really matters.

    We do not play the political games, nor pick what silo is the safest.

    Bring in a heretic to serve you, before they bring in one to replace you.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  6. Mike Myatt September 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Art

    This is a great read and an important message. I’ve often espoused that a weary leader is an at risk leader. The simple truth is that leaders who persist absent the energy and awareness needed to make sound decisions will find themselves giving ground rather than gaining ground. Keep up the great work Art…

  7. Art Petty September 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Mark and Mike, thanks so much for the comments! Mark, your post is great and well worth the read. Mike, well-said!

    Best, Art

  8. Janna Rust September 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I’d like to add an addtional remedy to cure TLS. Figure out what your life purpose is and determine how your current leadership role fits in to that BIG picture. When we can do that, even the little things in our work take on bigger meaning.

  9. Wally Bock September 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Great piece, Art! Good thing this isn’t a real drug commercial, though. They always end with the news that “some people have reported going blind or deaf. Occasionally, loss of memory and erectile function has been reported. Call a doctor immediately if you find yourself unable to breathe.

  10. George Smith September 28, 2009 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    How do you let your boss know that he may be suffering from Tired Leader Syndrome? What about denial of TLS?

  11. David Locke September 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    …If you are terminated, unlikely, do discontinue this medication unless you perceive that other aspects of your life are suffering from your leadership as well.

    Please recommend this medication to your bosses. Studies have shown that organizations suffer this malady, as a whole in a manner similar to depression fallout and other forms of codependency.

    If this medication does not seem to be working after six weeks, consider moving ot a new organization.

  12. Art Petty September 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    David, nice adds to the commercial!

    George, hmmm. Denial…is another malady…need another pill. Perhaps as part of the program I could generate little greeting cards that could be provided anonymously to the boss…encouraging him/her to seek help.

    Wally, I’m avoiding some of those more odious symptoms.

    Janna, you are right!

    Thanks to all for comments. -Art

  13. Nicole September 29, 2009 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Art,

    I love “Leadership Caffeine” – one of my favorite reads. This week’s approach really is a nice break from the traditional blogging formula. TLS is so real and I find that the people I get to work with seem to be drifting in and out of this territory right now. To me, the best cure-all to this is the realization “that leadership is truly a privilege”. I think that people can often focus on getting a leadership role purely because they desire to move up and oftentimes leadership is the only clear path in an organization to advancement.

    Different people’s motivations to be a leader can be a challenge for a manager to unravel and help keep their team of leaders motivated, but I think your statement “that leadership is truly a privilege” rings true for almost all people who are in a leadership role. Thanks for keeping us caffeinated and up to speed with expectations we should not forget!


  14. Danielle Lacombe September 29, 2009 at 9:30 pm - Reply


    I really enjoyed your blog this week. I had a boss that was a seriuos sufferer of TLS. It was not only miserable for them but for everyone else. It took a couple a years but the TLS was finally cured. I think what really did it in was the fact that employees were turning over at an extreme rate and even she was on the brink of leaving herself. If only there really was a pill that you could take to get over TLS. I just hope that i never need it.

  15. MAPping Company Success January 4, 2010 at 12:33 am - Reply

    […] up is Art Petty presenting Leadership Caffeine-The Cure for Tired Leader Syndrome (TLS) posted at Management Excellence. In this important public service announcement, Art discovered a […]

  16. Conor Neill January 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    This is an important topic and a nice way of making it accessible.

    I was priviledged to have lunch with Ken Blanchard in Barcelona a couple of months ago. He talked a little about the challenges of a leader in uncertain times. I asked him one question.

    “I think everybody here kind of knows what it is that we should be doing every day… but what if you wake up one morning and think ‘today, its not my turn to push, to motivate, to drive… today, its somebody else’s turn’. How do you, Ken, keep the energy going to keep leading?”

    I wrote about his answer at my blog http://www.conorneill.com/2009/10/where-does-leader-get-their-energy-from.html . I loved his answer “Start the day slowly”. I try to apply his lessons.

    Thanks for a good post.

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