Tag Archive for Henry Cloud

Integrity, by Henry Cloud


In the Christmas season, we all tend to pause and take some time to reflect on the things that really matter; things like family, love, generosity, and the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger.  It seems appropriate, then, to take a little time to focus one of the character traits that we notice more during this time of year:  integrity.  For that reason, this week I share some thoughts about Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity,” and next week I am drawing  a lesson on leading with integrity from the example of George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful life,” from a post I originally shared two Christmas’s ago.


integrity-cloud-coverAccording to Dr. Henry Cloud, there are three essential qualities of successful leadership: Competence, or the ability to “master your craft,” to “get good at what you do”; Relationships, or the ability to “cultivate and maintain relationships that are mutually beneficial”; and Character, or “your makeup as a person . . . not just moral safeguards, but who you are at your core, in both positive and difficult circumstances.” It is this third quality, Character, that he addresses in his book, “Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality” (2006).


In the book, Dr. Cloud connects character with integrity and reality, by explaining how reality puts demands on our lives that force us to respond, and how our response to reality are a reflection of our character. Our integrity, then, is seen in how our character is consistently demonstrated in all areas of who we are. He then discusses six specific aspects of our personhood – who we are – that must be integrated (consistently reflective of our character) for us to successfully lead:

  • The ability to establish trust through authenticity
  • The ability to see and speak the truth and reality, both in/to themselves and in/to others
  • The ability to finish well
  • The ability to embrace – and therefore to learn from – the negative
  • The ability to be oriented toward growth, which requires intentional effort and application
  • The ability to be oriented toward transcendence, recognizing that something bigger than you, from which your values will emanate


I found this to be an interesting and thought-provoking book. The emphasis was not so much on the character trait of integrity, but rather on the importance of having an integrated character. I would probably describe it in terms of consistency in your response to the realities of life in all circumstances, which reflects who you are as a person. Therefore, in this context, integrity is actually referring to an internal state – the unified wholeness in your character and your personhood as you navigate life. I do believe whole-heartedly that consistency and authenticity are necessary for successful leadership (and successful relationships), so this is a good lesson on which to reflect.

If you’re good you don’t have to tell people, they’ll tell you

A couple of months ago my family came together during a difficult time, when my father had a stroke.  As we gathered together in the hospital, often our conversations would turn to our memories of the words of wisdom he had shared over the years.  Some of it was quite funny, but all of it was wise, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the wisdom I have learned from him through the years.  Some are a repeat of previous posts (because I had already been sharing his wisdom), and some are topics I haven’t shared before.  My father went home to be with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Sunday, May 8, 2016.  I grieve at the loss of my hero, mentor, and friend, but I rejoice at the celebration of his arrival in heaven.

This week, I am sharing an lesson that he taught me about humility.

One of my father’s many great attributes was the character trait of humility. As teenager and a young man, I was often in awe at his capability and competence in so many areas, and yet he was never arrogant or prideful, and would not boast about his own accomplishments or abilities. Seemingly in spite of his extroverted nature and his constant interaction with people, he never seemed to be drawing attention to his own successes, but rather, poured into others. Like many young people, I suppose, I wished that everyone else could see how great my father was, yet he never seemed to point out those things in himself.

I finally began to better understand this about him when I was a senior in high school, and was receiving a particular accolade. There was a brief mention of this accomplishment in the local newspaper, and the next time one of my aunts came to visit, she mentioned the article and said to me, in front of my dad, that she had had no idea of my level of accomplishment before. I remember my dad saying to me, “Jeff, if you’re good, you don’t have to tell people, they’ll tell you.” At first, on the surface, that seemed like a simple statement, but now I realize that my dad was trying to teach me two very important things:

  • Humility is one of the most valuable character traits a person can have. No one likes pompous arrogance. It is unattractive to brag on yourself, and makes you look needy, selfish, and insecure. In fact, Jim Collins points out in his best selling book Good to Great that humility is one of the two primary attributes of a Level 5 Leader. So my dad taught me to see my skills and abilities as gifts from God to be used for the benefit of others, not for my own recognition.
  • Your actions speak louder than your words. One of his other many sayings (one I’ve referenced in this blog before) was, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” He knew – and he taught me – that people would be far more affected by my actions than my words, and that it would be my actions that would make my words believable. So he taught me to let my actions speak for me.

Tom Nelson, in his book Work Matters, points out that “we are witnesses by our words, but we also witness by our work. The excellence of our work often gives us the credibility to speak of the excellence of our Lord Jesus and to share the good news of the gospel with our coworkers.” (p. 96) In saying this, he reminds us of this same truth, that people will judge us, and by extension will judge our God, by the quality and competence of the work we do.   In turn, people will draw conclusions about us based on what they see. And that’s why Dr. Henry Cloud, in Necessary Endings, states that “the best predictor of the future is the past.” (p. 93) He points out that what we have seen people do and how we have seen them act in the past gives us the best picture of what they are likely to be like in the future.

For good or for ill, people will draw conclusions about us based on what they observe. Therefore, as leaders, as workers, as followers, as husbands and wives, as students and teachers, or in whatever role we find ourselves, we ought to do our best and we ought to do it well. But we shouldn’t need to point it out; rather, we need to model humility along the way.  Your work and your actions should be such that people can see what you do, and see for themselves that you do it well, without you needing to arrogantly inflate yourself. When that happens, they will be much more likely to appreciate your gifts and accomplishments then to resent them. So I will say the same thing to you that my dad said to me: If you’re good, you don’t have to tell people, they’ll tell you.