Leadership Summit 2011 | Henry Cloud – The Evil, The Foolish, The Wise

Posted on August 12, 2011


“No matter what ‘potential’ someone has, or what talents, brains, or opportunities they possess, unless they also have the character to bring it all to fruition, success rarely happens. Who you are really, truly matters.”

— live notes —

It’s not long into a consulting session when the issue of “this guy” comes up. “This guy” is a person that you are having problems with.

Wherever you are, God has called you to be a steward over a vision for the specific reason of changing something about this world, community, family, etc. Are you going to allow “this guy/woman” to stop your vision? This is someone who may have the power to stop the organization.

What does a person do when the TRUTH/REALITY comes to them? What do you do when that person is allergic to reality/truth?

While working out, “Oh, we forgot to take the before pictures.” Trainer, “Oh, we still can.”

Ok, so feedback. I’m going to assume you’re good at giving feedback. When you’re kind and responsible, what happens when someone gives you feedback? You listened, and you tell me “how.” And you take feedback, receive it, and you get better. Now the problem is that if you decide like that, you lead like that. And that would work, if everyone was nice.

Since everyone is not the same, you cannot deal with everyone the same. And that’s what responsible leaders do, and that’s the mistake. You have to deal with each person appropriately, or you will lead you

Some people are WISE, some are FOOLS, and some are are EVIL. And the larger your organization, the more likely you’ll have these people. The reality is also, all of us have all of these parts (and some make a career out of them).


When light comes to them, that person adjusts themselves to match the light. When truth comes, they change something. “Correct a wise person, and he will be wiser still.”

Another quality is that they smile, and thank you when you give them feedback! When asked, “Would you like some feedback?” the WISE will say, “Yeah, give me a gift.”

So, what do you do with the WISE? Talk to them, feedback, resource them, etc.!

The leadership challenge is to make sure they are a match to what they need. Give them feedback, coaching, and keep them challenged to keep growing.


A fool is basically someone who is gifted, talented, producing… but…

When the light shows up, they adjust the light. They try to dim the light, and adjust the truth. The FOOL will try to change the truth (minimize it, excuse it) or shoot the messenger. They deny it’s reality, they minimize, externalize it, shoot the messenger, and you don’t get a smiley face, and a lot of the times they get angry, and have the meeting after the meeting, triangulation, and now you’re the problem, and they split the company/organization. And every time you talk to a person like this, they do not own it.

Here’s what the Bible says, and here’s what all research supports: Do not confront or correct a fool, lest you incur insults upon yourself. Stop talking!

Let’s talk, rather, about how talking doesn’t help. I want to know how I can talk to you that what I talk to you makes a difference. It may be that they are foolish for shamed reasons. Then, What will we do if I do it, and then it doesn’t happen. I want to plan for the conversation after this conversation if there are non-effective consequences. Fools do not change when truth comes to them, they change when they must camp out in truth, and the pain of change is less than the pain of not.

There is great hope for fools. Fools you can change. But this takes guts. Sometimes these are the hardest calls to make.

Limit your exposure, make it clear about the consequences, give them a choice, then follow through. “You know what we need in that chair, is someone who will listen to truth and reality. I hope you’re that person.”


They have destruction in their hearts and they want to inflict pain. It’s hard for optimistic people to believe this, but there really are bad people in this world. You can’t talk to them, you can fix them.

Here, you have lawyers, guns, and $. Sometimes you have to call the police.

SO, God has called you to lead. Take the leadership challenge, to not let someone’s character problem stop your vision.