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Review: A Leadership Kick in the Ass by Bill Treasurer

leadership kick in the assThis review first ran in the May 23rd edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

A Leadership Kick in the Ass: How to Learn From Rough Landings, Blunders and Missteps

By Bill Treasurer

$25.50

Berrett-Koehler

You did a truly dumb thing.

Yes, you stayed within the letter of the law. But you will be found guilty in the court of public opinion and possibly crucified.

Your judgment, character and integrity will be questioned.

You will test the loyalty and faith of the people you lead.

This will rank among the worst of times for you. Yet it could also prove to be the best time to become a better leader if you respond in the right way.

“A kick in the tuckus can be the moment where everything changes for you as a leader,” says Bill Treasurer, chief encouragement officer at Giant Leap Consulting and author of A Leadership Kick in the Ass.

“These stark and startling moments can rattle your confidence to the core. But these moments can also be the starting point where you assess your strengths, clarify your values and develop an authentic and true leadership voice and style.”

According to Treasurer, embarrassing butt kicks can lead to transformative humiliation and positive change.

“You’ll stop overcompensating for your weaknesses by being falsely confident and over-dominant, and instead, will gain strength in the humble recognition that leading and influencing others is a privilege to be honored and treasured. Your kick will ultimately teach you that the only way to bring out the best in those you’re leading is to lead with the best of yourself.”

It takes real courage to see yourself as you really are, says Treasurer. It’s easy to dig in, push back and lash out. Admitting that you’re the source of your problems and ineffectiveness is hard and humbling. Yet it’s the only way you’ll face reality and be a better leader.

Getting your butt kicked injects a healthy dose of humility. “Strengths are good things. Until they aren’t,” says Treasurer.

Your mastery at public speaking can lead you to fall in love with the sound of your own voice and have you seeking the limelight. Your off-the-chart critical thinking skills can fool you into believing and acting as though you’re the smartest person in the room. Your strength of confidence can quickly turn into a weakness of arrogance.

A lack of confidence is also a weakness. Butt kicks loom for leaders who are preoccupied with the potential for failure and who hyper-focus on risk mitigation. They don’t trust, or fight, for their ideas. Timid and hesitant leaders are unoriginal, uninspiring, ineffective and eventually unfollowed and unemployed.

“Every leader is made up of sunshine and shadows. Paying attention only to the shiny parts of your leadership causes your shadow to grow, practically ensuring a kick in the saltshaker.”

So how do you make the most out of your kick in the butt? How do you achieve the confident humility that’s the hallmark of great leaders?

Treasurer recommends that you:

  • Focus on the long game. “A kick is just a momentary speed bump on your longer leadership career.” Focus on where you want your career to end up, not on the detour you’re taking.
  • Learn from your feelings.
  • Remember that discomfort equals growth. “You don’t grow in a zone of comfort. You grow, progress and evolve in a zone of discomfort.”
  • Broaden your view of courage to include being vulnerable, open and receptive to change.
  • Don’t be oblivious to yourself. “How much might it be costing you to remain loyal to your ignorance?”
  • Be your own project. “Lots of people lead projects better than they lead themselves. Treat your butt kick recovery like a project with outcomes, timelines and milestones.
  • Stay present. Fully immerse yourself in the experience.

“A humiliating kick can be the entry point for a richer, fuller and more complete understanding of yourself, as a leader and as a human being. You’ll be better able to use your strengths – and actively mitigate the shadows your strengths sometimes cause – so they better serve you and others.”

It’s a not question of whether you’ll get your butt kicked as a leader. It’s just a matter of when and how hard.

The real question is whether you’ll use this teachable moment to reset and right-size your confidence and humility.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College,  lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review: Speed – How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution by John Zenger & Joseph Folkman

speedThis review first ran in the May 8 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution

By John Zenger and Joseph Folkman

McGraw Hill

$35.95

Sitting through marathon meetings irritates you.

Pursuing perfection at the expense of making progress frustrates you.

And dealing with people who can’t cut to the chase exhausts you.

Patience is not your virtue.

We could punish you. Remind you to go along to get along. Tell you to work on your poker face. Ship you off for remedial training.

But if we’re smart, we’ll promote you.

Organizations need to pick up the pace, say John Zenger and Joseph Folkman.

“The survival of organizations depends on their ability to move quickly,” say the authors of Speed and CEO and president of a firm that delivers leadership development programs to organizations worldwide.

“We live in a world where the pace at which an organization moves and its ability to adapt and change can lead to dramatic success or failure.”

One of the keys to organizational success is leadership speed.  “Agile organizations are full of speedy leaders,” say Zenger and Folkman.

“Organizations can only move as fast as their employees do. The pace of employees will impact the pace of the organization. Even more important is the pace of the leader. Leaders who resist a brisk pace can be a major source of a company’s problems and ultimately its failure.”

Zenger and Folkman say we need more leaders who excel at doing things well and doing them quickly. Pacesetting leaders are adept at spotting problems and trends early and then wasting no time in making course corrections.

These quick-off-the-mark leaders inspire the rest of us to pick up our game and keep us motivated to go the extra mile.

To move your organization from sluggish to speedy, leaders can set an example by holding shorter meetings and having briefer interactions. Become a master at gently guiding others’ conversations.  “Help others get to the heart of the matter and let them know you respect their time and you want them to respect yours.”

Based on 360-degree feedback results on 52,000 leaders, Zenger and Folkman have identified eight companion behaviors that will dial up your leadership speed:

  • be innovative with a willingness to change
  • exhibit strategic perspective
  • display courage
  • set stretch goals
  • communicate powerfully
  • bring an external focus
  • take initiative, and
  • possess knowledge and expertise

“The pendulum defining most organizations’ behavior is currently not in the middle, but on the slow, ponderous side,” say Zenger and Folkman. “There is an urgent need and huge benefit to attaining what we have defined as true leadership speed.”

The authors make a convincing case for why organizations and leaders need to swing the pendulum to the speedy side.

@jayrobb serves as communications director for Mohawk College and lives in Hamilton.