Two-Dimensional Leader Disease

manonfloorAh, the life of a leader runs on worry.  You’ve moved beyond worrying about your own job to focusing on seizing more power during this opportunity called a recession.  You’ve been shedding workers at a record pace to keep the bean-counters happy with your expense ratios and now, you’re concerned about how you are going to step on and over your colleagues for that next promotion.  You know, it’s the one that’s opening up because you’ve done everything possible to tank your manager’s image without getting caught.  Now, the real worry is how your shrinking and disgruntled team can be driven harder to make you look good in time for year-end performance evaluations.

The burdens of leadership are heavy.

Just when you think you can’t take on one more concern, you’ve heard about two new illnesses from the Center for Leadership Disease Control here at Management Excellence.

A few weeks ago, you were shocked to learn of the longstanding but freshly named malady, Tired Leader Syndrome. After listening to the symptoms, you’re convinced that you’ve got a bad case and you are desperately seeking a miracle cure. Something that involves no effort and that will quickly make this draining disease disappear.  You’ve put a team on it and have people working around the clock to save your hide, but scientists and researchers hold out little help for chronic sufferers other than your complete and long-term isolation from anything that resembles a leadership role.

You remain hopeful that your minions can save you.

Adding fuel to the fire was the recent announcement here at the Center for Leadership Disease and Control at Management Excellence, that researchers have finally isolated the causes of a long-standing leadership wasting disease.  This heretofore unnamed but common set of symptoms is now called Two-Dimensional Leadership Disease or TDLD for short.

How Do You Know if You Suffer from Two-Dimensional Leadership Disease?

You could ask the people that work for you, but one of the first symptoms is that no one is comfortable sharing honest feedback about your performance with you. Too many messengers have been shot and too many impassioned pleas for you to start leading have gone unanswered.  One suggestion might be to eavesdrop or plant one of your minions into the populace to spy.  You smile thinking about how brilliant you are to come up with ideas like that.

Another approach to self-diagnosing this odious wasting disease is to attempt to rally your team into one location and force them to physically raise their eyes from the ground or the table and look at you.

It won’t be easy to get compliance, but you can use a long-winded speech that emphasizes the glory of serving you in the name of the greater good of the firm.  You’ll probably draw upon an old favorite…berating someone weaker than you in public just to show that you’re in charge.  Certainly, this will make people look up to watch in wonderment as you masterfully use your power and position to reduce a former human being to a puddle of sweat.

Finally, try making a few pleas to work harder, not smarter and then implore the team to look you in the eyes to see your fire and passion and to help them know that you are serious.

Once you’ve finally gained their attention, you should face forward, quickly turn around with your back to the group (a comfortable pose for you, since you’re usually blocking out the credit for success that goes to the team), and then slowly, very slowly turn sideways until you are standing at a 90 degree angle to the people in the room.

If you hear gasps of “Where did he go?” and “How did he do that?” and “Hey, he’s finally vaporized himself, good riddance,” then you know you’ve got Two Dimensional Leader Disease.

How do you know?  You turned sideways and disappeared.  As a leader, you have no depth!

The Bottom-Line:

Add depth by remembering that you are there to serve, that it is never about you and that your success is directly related to how hard you work to support and promote and advance those around you.

This horrible leader wasting illness, Two Dimensional Leader Disease, is only curable by figuring out what leadership is all about and then step-by-step, starting to act like one and by leaving the self-centered, narcissistic buffoonery of your leadership past behind.  It’s difficult, but not impossible. For best results, seek professional help.

By | 2016-10-22T17:12:01+00:00 October 8th, 2009|Career, Leadership|18 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. Bret Simmons October 8, 2009 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Hilarious, Art! Your bottom line is leadership 101. If folks don’t get that, they don’t have proper perspective. Without proper perspective leadership becomes a collection of tools and tactics to get people to comply. Keep up the great work!

  2. Kevin Kim October 8, 2009 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Awesome post. Didn’t know there really was a Center for Leadership Disease and Control at Management Excellence… a nice change from most serious and straightforward leadership posts. Thanks.

  3. Art Petty October 8, 2009 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Bret and Kevin, thanks for you comments and kind words. Bret, I’m not optimistic about my career as a comedy writer, but I can dream! Kevin, it is great to break from the serious stuff once in awhile and still try and get the message across.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!


  4. Mike Passaglia October 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm - Reply


    I am optimistic about your comedy writing…all you have to do is shift your focus to sports, and share some strategies of successful teamwork…The Packers Offensive Line. You might a find a full season of material.

  5. Elaine Hirt October 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I am dying over here. Laughing. And that photo! It’s perfect. As someone who has been berated for asking a question (how dare I question The Almighty Leader?), I have dreamed of knocking that leader down several times.

    I wonder how many of readers will recognize themselves. I wonder if they will see the damage they cause and how many dead bodies lie in their wake. I wonder if they will notice how blind they are to the staff who actually would love to help but have their hands tied and their mouth taped shut.

    Thank you Art for founding the Center for Leadership Disease. Brilliant!!!


  6. Art Petty October 8, 2009 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Mike, I am so impressed that you commented, that I can hardly contain myself! I will clearly overlook the cheap shot on that group of under-achievers known as the Green Bay Packer’s offensive line. They are truly offensive!

    Nice advice and thanks for reading and joining!! -Art

  7. Art Petty October 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Elaine, glad that I could prompt a laugh today and I wonder how many of us have day-dreamed about knocking that leader down!

    Your point on self-recognition is a great one. I always worry that we’re here preaching to the choir when the ones that need this stuff the most are truly deaf and blind to it. Nonetheless, we have to keep trying.

    Elaine, consider yourself a Charter Board Member of the Center for Leadership Disease, where our mission is to seek out and prevent lousy leadership everywhere.

    Thanks!! -Art

  8. Susan Mazza October 8, 2009 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Hilarious! I wonder what people with TDLD see when they look in the mirror…

  9. Jeff October 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Art – your bottom line nailed it. Many managers are far too focused on their self and their own career advancement to actually realize why they have been put in the management position to begin with. Managers who focus on the common good of their subordinates and assist with meeting their goals will be much more handsomely rewarded than those who do not. I would recommend that all managers solely focus on others and eventually their own goals will be achieved.

  10. Mark Allen Roberts October 8, 2009 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Great post,

    Those with TDLD are unable to cast a shadow.

    It’s hard to say you are leading if no one is choosing to follow you.

    One of the keys is to focus on the right prize; significance over success as I discuss in my blog

    Mark Allen Roberts

  11. Art Petty October 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Susan, I think that Mark partially answered your question…although in this case, no reflection. Jeff, consider us in complete agreement. Thanks to all for your comments! -Art

  12. Wally Bock October 9, 2009 at 4:59 am - Reply

    Great (and funny) stuff, Art. Bravo! Surely seeking a miracle cure that requires no effort is the key endeavor of many managers, aided and abetted by business articles that promise, unending success if you just follow a simple 5 (or 3 or 7) step process.

    Plus, to show that you are a great literary scholar as well as a management genius, you’ve brought Edwin Abbott’s classic Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions into a new, updated, and management friendly state.

  13. Mark D.Cohen October 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm - Reply


    This was a really funny article!

    I especially liked when you mentioned spying and said that we smile thinking how brilliant we are to come up with that kind of idea. Unfortunately, all of these examples of Two-Dimensional Leader Disease are very true, especially the berating.

    I agree with your bottom line: that it is never about you and success is derived from hard work and support and promotion of those who work with you. I would say that this is best done by impressing and inspiring your team to work even better than they thought they could, all because they want to. Finally, trust your team to work hard and know what they are doing after you give them the goal you want them to achieve and all the tools they need to achieve it.


  14. Zachary Vernal October 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm - Reply


    Wonderful Post! I probably don’t have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of managers I have encountered during my time that were more concerned with their own personal agenda then those who they managed. Leaders by definition are supposed to lead, and it is sad how many have lost sight of this. Those leaders who are successful take initiative to let their employees know they care and help when times are tough. You don’t see this with those who are focused on getting that next promotion. Hopefully today’s leaders will realize that the best way to advance a career is through good will and respect.

    Until next time, Have a good one Art!

  15. Three Star Leadership Blog October 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    10/14/09: Midweek Look at the Independent Business Blogs…

    Every week I select five excellent posts from this week’s independent business blogs. This week, I’m pointing you to posts about a serious leadership disease, the leader as Guinea pig, leadership secrets, leadership principles, and leadership speaker…

  16. Wally Bock October 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

    Wally Bock

  17. Matthew Dent October 15, 2009 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Great Post Art! I like the sense of humor, but you definitely nailed it with the bottom line. Too many leaders are more focused on themselves and there accomplishments. Instead the task of a great leader should be to, “promote and advance those around you.” You break down leaders to the most basic form and yet this is something leaders just don’t understand.

  18. Scott Peters October 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Great post. While humorous in the beginning, I began to see much of this “disease” in the workplace and leadership has suffered a terrible toll to match bean counters demands; very Wall Street philosophy to boot. All the way to skepticism of our current President, leadership is in need of leadership at this juncture (Bush Sr.). The talk of “we have a lot of work to do”, or “this isn’t putting our best foot forward” is the vernacular of such pigs that don’t comprehend ideas of excellence, or the American public for that matter. Whatever happened to the days of “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” or “failure is not an option”.

    At the highest levels of an organization, executives must take note of their hands in the disease and quit washing their hands, so-to-speak, to prevent it!!!! Middle managers (leaders) have become the turnstiles of people coming and going, and that stress leads to most certain physiological malady.

    Guinea pig + disease = Swine leadership!

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