Dr. Henry Cloud: 'We All Need Boundaries to Succeed'

Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist whose new book "Boundaries for Leaders" offers advice for those needing to set boundaries with those around them. Cloud took the time to speak with The Christian Post about the necessity of boundaries and how they can help one achieve much more in business, including helping pastors encourage churches.

The Christian Post: What makes a strong boundary? How can it be maintained?

Cloud: A boundary is basically a property line, so what makes a strong one is when one defines where something exists and where it doesn't. Leaders have to take ownership of what they are getting … they must take ownership for either creating or allowing things to exist. It's really important for leaders to start with understanding what the key dimensions are, whether they are leading a team or a group or church. There are a handful of key boundaries that leaders determine that actually determine a lot about the results that they get.

The first one is the clarity of focus that allows people to actually follow a leader; the emphasis in the book is that there are new reasons based on neuroscience as to why some leaders are able to lead better than others. There are those who are designed to follow a leader, and they must do three things: They have to attend to what is relevant, inhibit what is irrelevant and keep a continuous working memory of it. Leaders set a very clear path every day, in a thousand different ways, of what the people must attend to, inhibit, and keep it current in front of them.

What happens with a lot of leaders is that their leadership style is like ADD; they are all over the place with different ideas. They could be driving one idea forward but then move on to something else too soon. It's distracting for those followers, and it makes it hard to see progress.

CP: How do boundaries help leaders get further ahead in their own careers?

Cloud: The best way to advance in a career is to get great results while working with people. Leaders who are loved- they're loved for the results they produce and the relational climate and culture they build while getting results- are the ones who advance. They do a couple of things that neuroscientists have noticed: they create a very positive, motivating, biochemical garden for people's brains to flourish in through connections with people, clarity [by rooting] out things that lead to pessimism; they are very clear about helping people be empowered to have total control. Great leaders are known for empowering people to take control of what they can control to get results. If you put those two things together, they advance.

Leaders tend to create great teams, and that is the key to so many great scenarios about getting great results. When you see great leaders doing such good things, they generally don't have to worry about their careers because they have a great foundation.

CP: Are leaders the only ones who need boundaries? Who else can benefit from boundaries?

Every human being must have boundaries in order to have successful relationships or a successful performance in life. For life to work, we have to be able to define what we are in control of and what we are responsible for, as well as what we are not responsible for. For example, we see this in marriage where people either try to control everything or can't say "no." Everything that humans do involves the need to be autonomous and free and self-regulated; boundaries clarify that.

CP: How can pastors use boundaries to motivate a congregation?

Cloud: A pastor has to look at some of the root causes as to why a church is or is not following. Sometimes the shepherd will be very loving, giving and can overextend himself or herself to where he or she is doing something that the people should be doing themselves. Sometimes the first question that should be asked is: "Am I being more of a rescuer or enabler rather than a leader?"

Many times in this type of scenario, the people aren't following because the clarity of roles has not been defined. Role and responsibility clarification are the most important aspects of a boundary being drawn. Sometimes the instruction as to what must be done in order to achieve a vision, who is responsible for what must be made clear. And people must be held accountable for their actions. There are two sides: the motivational and the accountability.

A lot of following has to do with messaging: a group is always going to enforce its norms. It's very important for pastors to be casting and messaging from up front, that this is not my church or congregation, but my body so that people are clear as to what their responsibilities are … and at the same time not enabling the norm to continue.

CP: How can we apply boundaries to our daily lives?

Cloud: The concepts in "Boundaries for Leaders" are applicable to everyone, even those who are trying to lead a family. These boundaries are for everyone; we all need these boundaries in our lives, whether at work or at home. We need to align our leadership with ways that people can actually follow.

In my work, in consulting and coaching leaders, the fascinating thing that stands out is that leaders all do the same things: they know what they want to do; they engage talent; they have a plan of execution; they hold people accountable. These are the things that have to happen to get from A to Z. Now why is it that some people get results and some don't?

Some people lead in the way that people can actually follow, and others doing the same basic tasks are not leading in ways that people can actually follow. It explains a lot about why some leaders get results and others don't.

You can learn more about Dr. Cloud on his website www.drcloud.com.

"Boundaries for Leaders" is available now.