Educate June 2017

Book Review “A Leadership Kick in the Ass” By Bill Treasurer


Written By: Sharon Brown, Prospect strategy analyst, University of Florida Office of Advancement

“Leadership isn’t for the weak or the overconfident, as it takes guts to be humble. When you get that kick in the butt, think to yourself: Ok, now is my time to be a true leader, to acknowledge what happened, and to be vulnerable and open to learning from it.”

It’s not the mistake that matters but the actions you take afterward.

This is the area of leadership development and coaching you don’t hear much about: what happens when you get your butt kicked or get taken back a notch.

It’s more than developing a thick skin — that’s just superficial. In “A Leadership Kick in the Ass: How to Learn from Rough Landings, Blunders, and Missteps,” author Bill Treasurer shows us that it’s what happens next — the choices you make in response and how you move forward — that elevate you as a leader.

Let’s get the title out of the way. Is it a little off-putting to you? I feel the same way. Treasurer addresses it in the first few pages, though. He says he struggled with it until his elderly mother told him that, “Ass isn’t really much of a swear word.” She’s right, and there’s too much value within to let the title stop you from reading.

The author is a consultant, author and speaker. It was no surprise to learn he was a collegiate athlete and former captain of the U.S. High Diving Team. Treasurer’s book is short and sweet, bulleted and outlined to a T — everything you’d expect from a champion in such a precise sport.

If you’ve worked for any organization, no matter the size, the situations Treasurer describes will be familiar. All businesses have leaders, and the career-defining kicks covered in the book hit all of them at one time or another. It’s usually the same underlying culprits, too, including:

— Lack of communication, often the leader not listening
— Ego and pride getting in the way
— Lack of humility

Treasurer’s guide helps leaders focus on what to do when the inevitable happens. Leadership isn’t for the weak or the overconfident, as it takes guts to be humble. When you get that kick in the butt, think to yourself: Ok, now is my time to be a true leader, to acknowledge what happened, and to be vulnerable and open to learning from it.

With all due respect to the author, this is a book you can skim. A novel should be savored and read slowly so you hear the words, but a work as meticulously outlined as “A Leadership Kick in the Ass” makes it easy to scan, flip and stop at what catches your eye.

The real-life examples are some of the best parts. The leaders and situations are clearly described, and their choices are laid bare. Those who decide to learn after setbacks and those who let their egos and pride resist change are on different leadership paths, one long and fulfilling and the other short-lived and frustrating.

Treasurer breaks it down simply: Do you want to be a good leader? Then, be a good person. Act with courage, and behave with integrity.

I especially liked his take on strengths. Playing on one’s strengths is all the rage these days and for good reason. However, as Treasurer poetically points out, strengths can cast a shadow when taken too far. For example, being confident is great, until it tips over into arrogance.

Treasurer wisely counsels to be on the lookout for situations where your strength transforms into something negative. He also recommends taking stock, meaning you periodically take an objective look within to see if your actions align with your values. Read this book and get ready to ace your next disaster.

Review:

“Bill Treasurer offers tips from the trenches on how leaders can recover from failure, rejection, and embarrassment – and he manages to make it sound like fun. If you’ve ever been accused of taking yourself too seriously, this book may be an antidote.”

— Adam Grant, NY Times best-selling author of Give & Take Bill Treasurer

Sharon Brown is a Prospect Strategy Analyst with the University of Florida Office of Advancement. A graduate of UF’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, she is happy to have found a career that marries reading, writing and being curious. She and her husband, also a CLAS alum, live in Gainesville.

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