Next month, one of my favorite leadership authors, Bill Treasurer, releases a new book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass: How to Learn from Rough Landings, Blunders, and Missteps . Read my book review here. As part of the book launch, I was lucky enough conduct an email interview with Bill. Here are excerpts from that interview, along with my commentary based on reading an advance copy of the book
- Fun fact: You used to be captain of a high-diving team. How does that factor in to this book?
My interest in writing this book began twenty- five years ago, when I learned that I “sucked” at leading. I was a traveling gypsy, hurling myself off one- hundred- foot towers into small pools at amusement parks throughout North America. I had just become the captain of the U.S. high-diving team and one day, after what I thought was a lousy performance, I lit into the team. I thought, that’ll teach ’em. A swift kick in the keister will do this team some good.
But then of my divers, Steve Willard, said to me, “Let me tell you something, Treasurer: if you keep talking down to us, I’ll walk. I don’t need this job so badly that I’m willing to let you treat me and everyone else like crap.” I became defensive. Who was he to talk to me like that? But Steve shook his head like I was missing something. “Listen, dude. If you keep making people afraid of you, nobody is going to want to work for you. You suck at leading.”
Steve’s harsh comments stung because, down deep, I knew they were true. His words were the jolt I needed and deserved. I was utterly humiliated. After licking my wounds of embarrassment, I set out to become a better leader. I started reading books on leadership. I entered graduate school. I wrote my thesis on leadership. It was Steve’s kick to my ego that ultimately gave me my career.
- Is it possible to be a great leader without a career butt kick?
Read the biography of any leader you admire and you’re bound to see a moment in their story when he or she was humiliated by an action they took or the way they behaved. So my take is that it isn’t possible to a great leader without suffering through some hardships. The foreword of the book is written by Clint Hurdle, the coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He sums it up well in the book’s foreword, “There are two kinds of leaders; those who have been humbled, and those who are about to be.” (Note from Jen: the foreword is amazing.)
- How can humiliation be a good thing?
Humiliation is a harsh word, I know. But humility is derived from the word humiliation, and humility is crucial to effective leadership.
I call it “transformative humiliation”, which I define as positive behavioral changes that result from experiences that are embarrassing, leveling, and painful. Properly navigated, such experiences can cause you to become more grounded, real, and humble, resulting in a leadership style and approach that are more uniquely your own. Transformative humiliation is often the entry point for genuine humility and positive leadership change.
- Can leaders in all stages of their careers experience a butt kick?
Yes. No leader gets to permanently avoid a butt-kicking. Throughout someone’s leadership career, and especially when the leadership gets off track, their ego will get leveled. These experiences are a sort of reset button, causing you to reconsider the leader you are and the actions you need to take to become the leader you’d like to be. My book covers the common butt-kicks new, middle, and seasoned leaders face and provides practical tips for strengthening leadership effectiveness regardless of whichever stage the leader is in now. (Note from Jen: this is one of my favorite sections of the book because it acknowledges that we have differing leadership needs based on the stage of life we’re in.)
- There are thousands of leadership books out there. What makes yours unique?
This book is unique because in it I share stories and insights that come directly from my daily work with leaders. There aren’t any research statistics or academic theories. Instead, the lessons will draw from the most ancient form of research: personal experience.
Disclosure from Jennifer: I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of writing a review. All opinions are my own.