9 Things a Leader Must Do

These are my notes from reading Henry Cloud’s book called, “9 Things a Leader Must Do.” Get the book – it is brief, concise, full of illustrations and practical tips on becoming a more effective leader.

Why do some leaders get and accomplish what they want as a matter of routine, while others seem to regularly experience frustration and setbacks? Why do some leaders achieve their goals and reach new heights, while others barely “hang in there” and survive? Based on his groundbreaking psychological study of the ways that successful individuals think and behave, Dr. Henry Cloud presents a simple yet profound road map to help leaders, and those who want to become leaders, arrive at greater levels of personal growth and corporate influence than they previously thought were possible. The good news for all of us is that leadership success is not limited to vague notions of “charisma” nor traditional advantages like graduate degrees and connections, but much more to a pattern of thinking and moving forward that learns from mistakes and stays focused on goals. – Amazon Description

  1. Excavate Your Soul – Thing One: Déjà vu leaders explore their deep hearts and invest in their inner desires and drives.
    1. Leadership success is the process of digging up the treasures of the invisible soul in order to bring dreams, desires, and talents into the visible world.
    2. Those who take what they possess, invest it in life, and are diligent and faithful with it over time, grow and build something good. But those who allow fear to keep them from stepping out, not only fail to increase what they have, they actually lose it.
    3. Success and failure alike arise from what is going on inside, and the wise person is the one who pays attention.
    4. Healthy risk is calculated, integrated, and then executed with diligence and thoughtfulness.
  2. Yank the Diseased Tooth – Thing Two: Déjà vu leaders do not allow negative things to take up space in their lives.
    1. If they can’t fix the bad stuff, they get rid of it. Sometimes quickly and sometimes through a process, but if a tooth is infected, they yank it out. They get rid of negative energy.
    2. We need to clear out clutter, dead weight, things we keep around that don’t help us but take up space or drain resources.
    3. Get rid of the things you are not using.
    4. Avoidance is really not helping anything, because you still expend the energy and feel the hurt. If you had simply yanked the bad tooth when it started bothering you, you would be over the pain by now. Avoidance always prolongs pain.
    5. New things that actually have hope for the future cannot appear until you get rid of what was taking up the space that the new thing needs.
    6. The cringe factor: “My rule is this: Anytime I have to cringe or take a big gulp to agree to do anything substantial with anyone, whether to hire him, work with him, or anything significant, I don’t do it. Period.”
  3. Play the Whole Movie – Thing Three: Déjà vu leaders evaluate their decisions in the present based on how they will affect the future.
    1. I’ll be hanged if I’m going to let my daughter marry any man who doesn’t own a watch!”
      Déjà vu leaders evaluate almost everything they do in this way. They see every behavior and decision as links in a larger chain, steps in a direction that has a destination.
    2. So here’s the question: On that day three years from now, do you want to have a law degree, enabling you to do something you love? Or do you want to still hate your life?”
    3. “We’re having a week of what we call war games,” he replied. “We play out future bad scenarios and make sure we’re in a position to handle them.
  4. Put Superman out of a Job – Thing Four: Déjà vu leaders continually ask themselves, “What can I do to make this situation better?”
    1. Why doesn’t somebody else step up and do something to save the day? It’s like everybody else is powerless even to try to intervene. The people seem resigned to the fact that if Superman doesn’t show up, they’re all doomed. So nobody even tries.
    2. Even if someone else is at fault, they take initiative to address the problem and seek a solution. Whatever the answer may be, déjà vu leaders make a move.
  5. Embrace Your Inner Insect – Thing Five: Déjà vu leaders achieve big goals by taking small steps over time.
    1. The lessons from the ant farm – This entire feat was really no more complex than one step at a time, one grain of sand at a time. If an ant could do it, so could I.
    2. The biggest enemy of the small-steps-big-results principle is our craving for having it all. If the ant picks up a grain of sand, the city will be built. But if the ant looks at the grain and says, “That is not a city! What a waste of time!” there will be no city in the end.
    3. Wanting it all keeps you from having any.
  6. Earn a Black Belt in Hate – Thing Six: Déjà vu leaders develop the ability to hate the right things well.
    1. “I don’t mind problems, because business is about solving problems,” he began. “But, I hate surprises. This new information was not disclosed to me in the purchase process. If I had known earlier, it would not have mattered. It is just a problem to be solved.”
    2. What we hate says a lot about who we are, what we value, what we care about. And how we hate says much about how we will succeed in business and life.
    3. When we hate the evil around us, we move to get rid of it as an act of love.
    4. Déjà vu leaders hate in ways that solve problems as opposed to creating problems.
    5. Transform it to the kind of hate that solves problems, protects things that you value, and stands against the things that you do not want in your life and work.
  7. Forget about Playing Fair – Thing Seven: Déjà vu leaders give back better than they are given.
    1. That means that if I make a mistake, I want you to help me, not get back at me.
    2. The fault with fairness is that all it takes for any relationship to go sour is for one person not to perform, and then the other one will do the same. There is an interlocking dependency: The other person must be good so I can be good.
    3. The other’s benefit is their utmost concern. That does not mean they have no interest in their own benefits. It simply means that in their treatment of others, their goal is to do well by them regardless of how they are treated. They don’t play fair; they play right.
  8. Quit Self-Exaggerating – Thing Eight: Déjà vu leaders do not strive to be or to appear more than they really are.
    1. A déjà vu leader is a human being like everyone else, avoiding the need to be more than that.
    2. People who learn from failure are motivated to do better. Self-confidence does not come from seeing oneself as strong, without flaws, or above making mistakes. Self-confidence and belief in yourself come from accepting flaws and mistakes and realizing that you can go forward and grow past them, that you can learn from them.
    3. Closely related to admitting our own mistakes is responding constructively when the news of our imperfections comes from others. The way of the déjà vu leader is to receive correction as a gift, not to be defensive.
    4. Successful leaders fail just like everyone else. But it’s the way they handle their failure and imperfections that sets them apart.
    5. Humility means giving up thinking that we know it all, giving up thinking we can do it all, giving up thinking we have to do it well all the time, giving up thinking that we are better than others when they do not do it well, giving up needing to be seen as right or good all the time, and giving up defensiveness. In all these cases, the way of the déjà vu leader is basically to be real.
  9. Ignore the Popularity Polls – Thing Nine: Déjà vu leaders do not make decisions based on the fear of other people’s reactions.
    1. Successful leaders are sensitive to the reactions of others, but when weighing whether or not a given course is right, whether or not someone else is going to like it is not a factor that carries any weight. Concern, yes; but weight, no. Déjà vu leaders decide to do what is right first and deal with the fallout second.
    2. One of the important distinctions that déjà vu leaders make in these situations is between hurting someone and harming him. Hurt is a normal part of life, harming is optional.
    3. Learn the old saying, I am not doing this to you. I am doing it for me. That is not inflicting harm at all, even if the person on the receiving end acts as if it is.
    4. The responses you get may be along the lines of, “After all I’ve done for you and the company, this is the thanks I get?” or “I’ve done nothing wrong; why am I getting the shaft on this deal?” Stay fixed on your heading to do the right thing and do not allow the guilt messages to blow you off course.
    5. If you let the anger of other people decide your course of action for you, then you have just trained them in how to get what they want out of you. You have set yourself up for the same experience again.
    6. I’m often asked by leaders, “How do you deal with controlling people?” My answer is that you convert them from being controlling to being frustrated. The only way people can be controlling is when we make them that way by doing what they want.
    7. Don’t try to avoid upsetting people; just make sure you are upsetting the right ones. If kind, loving, responsible, and honest people are upset with you, then you had better look at the choices you are making. But if controlling, hot and cold, irresponsible, or manipulative people are upset with you, then take courage—it might be a sign that you are doing the right thing and becoming a déjà vu leader!
    8. On that day I discovered four things that changed my life. They were the same four things that I have heard other people affirm countless times:
      1. God is there to help us if we ask Him.
      2. He not only helps us directly, He gives us others to help us.
      3. He designed life to work according to certain truths and principles.
      4. As we practice those truths and principles, good things are given.
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