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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.



This post first appeared on the CLA Higher Thinking Blog, December 30, 2016


Have you ever left a conversation thinking, “I didn’t come across very well”? Or left a meeting telling yourself, “I don’t think I added much value to that discussion”? Or finished a presentation wondering why you failed to make an important point?


As leaders, every presentation, meeting, and interaction is an expression of our leadership. Yet, we often fail to carry a leadership presence into those situations. Instead, we go into them unprepared, “winging it” throughout the day. It’s no wonder we fall short of our own expectations.


This post offers three strategies to help you as a leader show up as your best self in every situation: self-observation, feedback, and mental practice.




Leadership professor Charles Manz contends that self-observation is the lifeblood of self-leadership. Self-observation enables us to observe our own behaviors to gain information on them and, in turn, manage them. Self-observation leads to self-awareness, a critical leadership competency.


The Apostle Paul implores us to think of ourselves with “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). In other words, take an honest look at our strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. Assessments are valuable tools to gain a better understanding of ourselves (i.e., Strengthsfinder, DISC, RightPath, etc.). These steps help us distinguish between the behaviors that show our best selves and those that don’t.


How can you build time for self-observation into your routines?


Set up a daily reminder on your calendar. Pause between meetings. Record your reflections in a journal. Notice behavioral patterns and lean into the ones that reflect your best self.




As we better understand our personal strengths and weaknesses, it’s also important to explore any blind spots or behaviors that we aren’t aware of. This is where we invite others into the process. Manz stresses the value of relationships as “an ongoing source of enrichment, learning, and resilience, and a cue for personal reflection and development in general.”


Seeking feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors is one of the most effective ways to discover our blind spots. Honest feedback may sting but, as Proverbs 27:6 states, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”


Who will you invite to give you honest feedback?


Include the people you lead by asking them, “What’s it like to be on the other side of my leadership?” Consider a 360-degree assessment to obtain feedback from a range of people who experience your leadership in action. Use your findings to work on your blind spots.


Mental practice


Top athletes, musicians, and other performers use positive visualization to imagine themselves achieving their goals. Andrew Bryant and Ana Kazan, authors of Self-Leadership: How to Become a More Successful, Efficient, and Effective Leader from the Inside Out, emphasize the importance of this mental imagery. They write, “To be a self-leader it is essential to gain control of your imagination, because whether you are imagining good things or bad, you are setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy.”


Make mental practice a habit by imagining yourself successfully completing each task or event before you start it. This technique is effective for any task, project, presentation, meeting, conversation, phone call, etc. When possible, take your mental practice a step further by scripting out your behavior in advance, and rehearsing as if you were going to perform on a big stage.


Ready to practice?


Take a minute or two before every opportunity to exhibit your leadership. Ask yourself: Who am I and what role do I play in this situation? How do I want to come across? How can I add value? What does a successful outcome look like? Then, perform a mental (or actual) walk-through as you picture your best self in that situation.


Want to ensure that you show up as your best self in every situation? Enhance your leadership presence and results by developing these strategies of self-observation, feedback, and mental practice.


Jon Lokhorst, CPA (inactive), is a leadership coach and consultant, partnering with organizational leaders to maximize their talent, build high-performance teams and deliver extraordinary value to their constituents. Contact him at