A title like A Leadership Kick in the Ass is sure to grab your attention. It certainly makes you wonder what’s inside the cover. And what you’ll find inside this new book are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ll learn this year. As my first leadership reading of 2017, it sets a high bar for other books I’ll read as the year goes on.
Leadership is just plain hard
A telephone conversation with author Bill Treasurer gave me an even deeper appreciation for the book. Bill shared that he started from the premise that leadership is just plain hard. In fact, his original working title was Leadership is Freakin’ Hard.
“We glamorize leadership too much,” Bill explained. “We deify it, put it on a pedestal and make it out of the reach of most people, most mortals. And that’s unfair to a leader.”
“There’s a certain wake-up call that happens for a leader,” he continued. “There’s a certain reality check that leaders eventually confront. Some of it is the fact that leadership is so hard. But some of it is that leaders often get in their own way with their own ego.”
The leader’s choice
An over-sized ego often leads to the leader getting his or her butt kicked. Other kicks may be out of the leader’s control, like the death of a company founder (one of the book’s many relevant examples). Regardless of where the kick comes from, the leader faces a choice.
Unfortunately, many leaders reject the kick and the learning opportunity that comes with it. Some double-down on arrogance and blame, setting themselves up for an even more painful butt-kick later.
On the other hand, wise leaders approach their missteps or setbacks with a teachable attitude. This opens the door for what the book calls “transformative humiliation,” leading to positive behavioral change that helps form a more humble, genuine, and grounded leader.
As Bill writes in the preface, “Good leadership often starts with a swift kick in the ass.”
The key: confidence and humility
Bill suggests that the best leaders lead with a blend of confidence and humility. As the book states, “When confidence and humility are present in the right measure, your leadership strength, influence, and enjoyment will grow.”
An overabundance of confidence results in impulsive decisions, a lack of receptivity to the counsel of others, and the risk that the leader misuses power in pursuit of his or her goals. When the scale tips toward too much humility, leaders don’t trust their own ideas, avoid risk, and bend to fear and people-pleasing.
Chapter 7, creatively titled “A More Perfect Derriere: Confident Humility,” closes with practical tips to help leaders move toward the right mix of these qualities. Among them, Bill points out that sharpening skills helps to build right-sized confidence while serving others results in greater humility.
A powerful tool for reflection, discussion
The best way to leverage A Leadership Kick in the Ass is to pause at the many thought-provoking questions planted throughout the content. Self-observation and reflection are critical ingredients for effective leadership.
As Bill told me, “The best leaders are thoughtful and know what their thoughts are. They’re not just shooting from the hip. They have a depth to them. It’s hard in a really shallow society to have depth if you don’t spend any time observing and reflecting.”
The book is also ideal for team discussion and one-on-one mentoring or coaching conversations. Senior leaders will find it a helpful springboard to share their butt-kick lessons with younger leaders. Emerging leaders will gain an awareness of potential leadership pitfalls that might just prevent a sore rump down the road.
Have you had your leadership butt kicked lately? Or, maybe it’s time for you to kick yourself with the help of a professional coach. Let’s Talk! Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy call on my online calendar.