This 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
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.