Leadership, as a topic, can be perplexing. As a leader, you are expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, driven and patient . . .and yes, confident and humble. Faced with all of these often conflicting factors it’s enough to make you scratch your head and wonder, Where on earth do I start?
This quote, offered near the end of Bill Treasurer’s forthcoming new book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass: How to Learn from Rough Landings, Blunders, and Missteps, succinctly summarizes how difficult it is to lead in today’s world. Whether you are a business leader, school administrator, parent or volunteer chairperson, leadership is a tough gig. Treasurer’s latest book aims to help leaders grow through that most humbling of human experiences: humiliation.
The book’s main premise is that when leaders experience a humiliating event, a sort of “psychological spanking” occurs (hence, the title* of the book.) What follows is either a wake-up call for transformational change, or maintaining the status quo, with a dogged persistence that “others” are wrong. Through real-life case studies based on Treasurer’s executive coaching practice, we learn about leaders in various industries and career stages. Some of the leaders profiled make the transformative leap; others do not.
As with his previous book, Leaders Open Doors, Treasurer sticks to stripped-down prose and real-life examples to make his point. He gives a nod to the importance of scholarly leadership research saying, “I have great respect for leadership authors who study leadership at major universities and I often apply what I’ve learned from them in my work.” Although Treasurer has a Master’s degree in Organizational Development, he considers himself a “plumber” rather than a scholar. “I show up to work every day, roll up my sleeves and work directly with leaders to remove whatever hairballs might be mucking up their pipes. The work ain’t always pretty,” he writes.
Following the “dirty jobs” metaphor, this book offers a less-than-rosy picture of leadership. Treasurer reports on fired leaders who didn’t see it coming, scorching 360 degree feedback comments, and midlife career burnout. Getting a swift kick in the pants is never fun, but it can be instructive if you let it, offers Treasurer. The book is structured with the case studies as the set-up for tips on how to survive your own butt-kicking.
I very much enjoy Bill Treasurer’s style as a writer. (See my video book review of his 2013 book Leaders Open Doors here.) He is down-to-earth and funny, offering just enough wry commentary to let the reader know he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
*A note on the title of the book. Frankly, it was a bit off-putting to me and not really true to what I perceive to be his brand, so I asked Bill about it. Here’s what he said (via email):
My publisher and I considered easier, softer words. In the end, though, we settled on a three-letter swear word. Why? Because of the truth of the word. Sometimes situations are just so perplexing, embarrassing, and leveling that they kick your ass. Consider, too, that the phrase has a strong positive connotation. When you talk about wanting to give someone a good kick in the fanny, it’s to inspire change, help someone perform up to his or her potential, and inspire accountability.
It’s a way of kick-starting positive action and forward movement. Also, it may help to know that my eighty-year-old mother approved of the word, saying, “Let’s be honest, Bill, ‘ass’ isn’t really much of a swear word.” Finally, I’d rather speak like my readers and clients than the leadership textbooks I used to read. I have to add that, for the last dozen years, the clients I’ve done the most work with are unionized Chicago-based construction companies. Believe me, “ass” is the tamest word they use!
So there you go! Please consider picking up this book regardless of your leadership title or stage in your career. Treasurer addresses this topic in all three phases of a leader’s career – early days, midlife, and senior executive. It’s a quick read and one you’ll be glad to put in your leadership library.
Disclosures: As part of the book review process, I received a free copy of the book. The opinions expressed are my own, and I only review books that I think will benefit readers of The People Equation. Please use your best judgement to determine if this book would in fact be useful to your own unique circumstance. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.