Henry Cloud: Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader

Imparting practical and effective wisdom for improving leadership skill and workplace performance, Henry Cloud is the author of more than 20 books, including the four-million selling Boundaries series.

Here are my notes on Henry Cloud’s session, which was fantastic just like his message two years ago on three kinds of people .

As leaders, you are people who take charge and do stuff.

Leaders take the stewardship God has given them and exert their energy in that space to lead people and take ownership of that.

The hardest thing a leader has to be in charge of is himself.

Some leaders get results, and some don’t.

Some in the middle of here to there hit a block in the middle and start to stumble and fall because they can’t lead themselves.

How does a downward spiral of a leader happen?

The leaders who can stop a spiral: they think, feel, and behave differently than the ones who spiral out.

They put the smart guys who were pessimists, and the no-nothings who were optimistic, and the no-things out performed by 53%. The ones who believe they can will win every single time. The biggest factor on whether you will get from here to there is whether or not you believe it can be done. The number one factor is “do you believe that it can happen.” All leaders believe it can happen when they start, but then something happens—they get into a circumstance (and it will happen to you) where they become out of control (that is, not of their own doing—they are out of control of the circumstances behind them, and that begins to change their brain: learned helplessness).

We are designed by God to be in a cause and effect universe. But when we find ourselves in a circumstance where there are things we cannot control that are affecting us. What happens to the brain in a situation that you can’t control? It begins to change—in some predictable ways. The three Ps.

The brain begins to change in the ways it interprets everything around you.

The Spiral

1. Personal

The brain begins to interpret that in a personal way. “Why didn’t that sale happen? I’m no good.” Or a failed capital campaign. Or whatever. You interpret in a way that “I’m not good enough.” Every leader does stuff that doesn’t work. But the “dummies” don’t take it personally. They say “I guess they weren’t ready, or I need to tweak the presentation.” But they don’t conclude it’s because “I’m not good enough.” And they go on to succeed.

But for those who take it personally, the brain begins to shut down, and goes to the next P.

2. Pervasive

They then generalize from this. “My whole life sucks.” It goes to a different region of the brain and everything goes bad. Then there’s another event. You get an email that’s critical. It reinforces the first to Ps. Then to the third p:

3. Permanent

You think it’s permanent. Once the brain begins to go into this state, even the best performers can get here, but there’s a way out.

Science and the Bible always agree in a place called reality. If they’re not agreeing, you have goofy science or whacky Christians, and there’s no shortage of either.

We see David in the Bible going here. We see great leaders here.

When your brain is going negative, the things you can do to change things—you don’t do them anymore.

How do you get out of it? You have to reverse the three Ps.

Reversing the Spiral

1. Log them and dispute them

Write down the negative thoughts. 99% of will be absolutely false. Then you find the themes, and start to dispute them. You dispute it with God’s word. “What do you mean you aren’t good enough? You are my workmanship (Eph 2:10).” There is a difference between your brain and your mind. Your brain is a physiological organ that can give off false signals.

Dispute the personal stuff, dispute the pervasive stuff. One client might be mad at you, but another one loves you. It’s not pervasive. When you begin to look at the whole picture, life changes. Your life is a movie, not a scene. Every great movie has crisis scenes in it. It’s the people that see it as a scene that make it through. And it’s not permanent because there’s a hope for you.

2. Get back in control

What caused this problem? The loss of control. Write two columns. What you can control and what you can’t control. Obsessive about what you can’t control as hard as you can—for five minutes. Then take action on the stuff you can control.

Some passengers said about an airline: “It’s like they hate us. It’s like they don’t want us to be here.”

Dispute the negative noise and get back in control of what you can do.

3. Connect

Your brain turns to a cesspool of stress if it is focused on things it can’t control. The brain runs on oxygen, glucose, and relationships. So you must connect.

The opposite of bad is love. You don’t start trying to do good to feel better. You connect—relationships. Once you start to feel good in relationship, you forget about whether you are doing good or bad, and you begin to solve problems.

Study: when they connected, the brain changed.

Connect, connect, connect. When you feel the spiral starting, connect and your brain will change.

A can-do attitude is something that will give you confidence. What God wants for you is a “find-a-way” thinking.