Henry Cloud is a leadership consultant, best-selling author and speaker. Probably his best known book and subsequent series of training workshops is Boundaries. His books have sold nearly 20 million copies.

The Bottom Line

Most of the time we think of integrity or character in terms of morals, ethics and trustworthiness, not in terms of performance.

Cloud is saying:

Who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities and opportunities will succeed.

Where Character is the Problem

There are three indicators that point to character being an issue:

1. Hitting a performance ceiling much lower than one’s aptitude. In other words, falling short of one’s full potential.

2. Hitting an obstacle or situation that derails a person.

3. Reaching great success only to self-destruct and lose it all.

As people go through life and work they leave behind them a wake, that is, the results of their actions. These two jet streams flowing behind the boat as it makes its way through the water represent:

1. The task

2. The relationships

Both are equally important as very often the one can’t be done without the other. Or the task is accomplished at the cost of relationships which in turn costs time, productivity, emotional drag, lost opportunities and all the issues relating to a break down in trust.

What is Character?

Cloud uses this analogy:

If you are an air force general wanting a new airplane built you would sit with the engineers who are going to ask, “What are going to do with this plane?”

Depending in whether the plane needs speed, needs to fly at high altitudes, dip down to the desert and withstand heat, or what kind of cargo it needs to carry over what distances they will design accordingly. They will want to know if fuel efficiency is a criteria, and/or manoeuvrability. Based on the requirements the ‘integrity’ of the material will need to withstand the demands placed on it.

For Cloud the level of your integrity translates into your character. While you don’t need all the gifts that exist in the world, you do need all the aspects of character while you are putting your gifts to work. So at the end of the day, what you are asking is, “What am I made of?”

Cloud translates character as “the ability to meet the demands of reality.”

In answer to the question if character is set from an early age and therefore can’t be changed Cloud is adamant that people grow and change. He likens character being ‘fixed’ to the structure of a house. It has a frame from which you have to work but walls can be knocked down and different ones built. But it does depend on the willingness of the person to invest in these changes.

What is Integrity?

Cloud connects the meaning of ‘integrity’ to related words like ‘integrated’ and ‘integral’. Therefore it is about wholeness and effectiveness, with all our different parts functioning and synchronizing as needed.

This is not about being perfect in everything, but about being integrated as a person. Without this holistic understanding strengths can become weaknesses as they over balance other important traits of character.

For Cloud there are six traits that make up the whole nature of character and all six are required. If any area is lacking he makes a no bones statement that personal development is an absolute requirement. He puts it this way, “There are no shortcuts, tricks, ‘fooling it’ or any other way to be successful if we do not possess the stuff that each situation is demanding from us. We must bend the knee to the necessity for personal development.