Dr. Henry Cloud has become one of my favorite leadership experts to learn from. It is always a joy to hear speak because his lessons are practical, researched based, and full of integrity. In fact, his book “Integrity” was his first work that really made him a serious leadership expert in my mind. However, Dr. Cloud has over twenty years of leadership experience as an organizational consultant and has become a major influencer in certain church circles as well as the business world. He has a Ph.D in psychological leadership and writes from a faith based perspective.
Dr. Cloud’s newest book, “Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge (2013) is essentially a synthesis of his previous bestselling work Boundaries, with a heavy emphasis on neuroscience and organizational effectiveness. Dr. Cloud states that leaders get what they create and allow. Thus, the need for clear boundaries is a discipline that is absolutely critical for optimal effectiveness at both the personal and corporate level.
While Dr. Cloud’s insights are based on scientific research and they are by no means empty or dry data. Instead, he brilliantly weaves in personal stories of working with previous clients and shows how each principle can be fleshed out in the reader’s organization. At the heart of his book, is the thesis that leaders lead better when they appeal to the executive functions of human brains. These functions are habits that cultivate chemical reactions and build healthy company cultures. The three disciplines leaders need to adhere to are attending, inhibiting, and relying on working memory. In attending, employees, followers, or teammates become ambitiously focused on completing the task at hand. With inhibition, unnecessary distractions are eliminated and certain activities are avoided. The third element is perhaps the most detrimental for it joins and applies the previous two. Dr. Cloud explains that working memory is “the ability to retain and access relevant information for reasoning, decision making, and taking future actions” (p. 27).
Many of the boundaries discussed focus on factors that build relational trust. Of these, things like connecting through understanding, motivation and intent, character, capacity and ability and a leader’s track record are foundational. Likewise, Dr. Cloud lists a number of objectives leaders can enact that will help execute trust that will improve performance. The implementation of trust, sharing team objectives, defining operating values and behaviors, utilizing case studies, making specific covenants, and developing accountability systems will help deepen trust and consequently align organizational purpose.
In addition, Dr. Cloud shows how a results-oriented team can work to turn the three P’s of personalize, pervasive, and permanent attitudes from a negative perspective to a positive mentality. Ultimately Dr. Cloud states seven scientific steps to build a successful organizational culture, which he claims is more important than the smartest of people or most advanced strategic plan. The seven elements of an inspirational culture include helping people attend to what is important, inhibit what is not important, and remember what they are doing as well as the why behind it. Emotional environments free of the wrong kind of stress as well as building teams that are deeply connected and help people think optimistically help people gain and keep control over the items which they should concentrate on the most. The final component of great performing teams, are leaders who are able to lead themselves effectively. Leaders, who can take charge, relationally connect with people, and create opportunities for growth, will consistently get high performance results while being ridiculously in charge.