The Power of Others


 Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.                           1 Thessalonians 5:11

One of my recent reads is a book entitled The Power of the Other: The Startling Effect Other People Have On You, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom, by Dr. Henry Cloud.  It was suggested reading by a colleague of mine, and the title of the book intrigued me so I downloaded it.  The author is an expert of the psychology of leadership, and is an author, speaker and leadership consultant.  He has advised CEO’s,  boards of public companies as well as individual leaders, and his book is loaded with anecdotal evidence of his thesis.

The book describes how some people are able to surpass limits in their performance with input from others, the point being is that they may not have succeeded without help.  “Limits” here include an “obstacle, a leadership dilemma or challenge, a conflict with a person, a weakness or a problem – something that they know is getting in the way.”

He concludes that “the reason that [you] have those limits is the lack of relationship, of human connection”. Studies consistently show that “people trying to reach goals succeed at a much greater rate if they are connected to a strong human support system”.  In other words, most successful leaders attribute their success to someone else who made it possible. Your performance “is either improved or diminished by the other people” in your life.  Good stuff.

Cloud goes on to say that most leadership advice and business books focus on how you lead others, how to perform and build your competencies, but ignore the people who affect you and the power you may have as an “other” for them.  He breaks connections into what he describes as the “Four Corners” of connection.  The First Corner he calls “Disconnected” where the individual is unable to build a strong relational culture.  They become loners.

Corner Two is called a “Bad Connection”, where you are pulled toward someone who “has the effect of making you feel bad or ‘not good enough’ in some way”.  The Third Corner is described as the “Seductively False ‘Good’ Connection”.  This is a dangerous place because the connection may include an attachment to “promotions, awards, or positive results, or even to sex, drugs or a Ferrari” in an attempt to feel better.

It leads to shallow connections, self-centeredness and being out of touch. Leaders here often surround themselves with “yes” people – people “who tell them they’re great and their ideas are stellar.” “Flattery is the perhaps the worst drug for those in Corner Three”, and they often become controlled or manipulated by the flatterer.

Corner Four is where you want to bewhere relationships become a necessity, just as is oxygen, water and food for your existence. This is the corner where you are able to be authentic – your whole self, and where you can express your heart, mind and passion. It also is place where accountability exists – where others will be checking in with you to see how you are doing. “There is no such thing as a self-made man.”

Leaders who accomplish the most and overcome the most are not afraid to say they need help from others. In Corner Four, one finds friends and colleagues who are mutually dedicated to open, honest discussions which are carried out in an environment of caring and grace (my term, not Cloud’s).  It is an environment where caring, honesty and results are key:

“Caring enough about someone to not be hurtful in how we say things, the honesty to say them directly, and a focus on behavioral change and better results.” Cloud cites research that says that the brain responds best to a ratio of five positive feedback messages for every negative message.  Something to ponder in your interactions.

This past weekend, I noticed a magnet on my daughter’s refrigerator that I liked. It was a saying from Euripides, a Greek playwright, who said   One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.  I mentioned this quote to my wife, and she quickly said that we have good relatives. Point taken, but the principle is generally sound in my experience.

My mother put it another way.  She maintained that you can count your true friends with the fingers on one hand, and you usually will have fingers left over.

One consistent theme that I have espoused is the importance of mentoring in other people’s lives. I look at my own life, and can see the hands of a select group of men and women who shaped me and directed my path in some significant way. I learned from them in ways that I never learned from sitting in a classroom.

Life experiences teach a lot, and being able to get the benefit of someone’s life experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – was essential, indeed even critical, to my development.

So, my challenge is to consider being an important “other” to someone around you – a younger person or even a peer. Someone they would consider in Corner Four as Cloud describes it.  Cloud has it right – we need that connection to become all that we can be and to push us beyond where our own self-imposed limits may have kept us.  The next generation is out there, looking for this guidance and support to help them overcome the obstacles they encounter. They are looking for someone of character that they can trust to invest and speak into their life. You can be that “other” person in someone’s life.  Consider it today!

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Dr. Henry Cloud’s book is an excellent read, and includes ways of minimize conflict in leadership and developing a Corner Four environment:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Avalon sing Orphans of God, where the lyrics say “There are no strangers/ There are no outcasts/There are no orphans of God”: 

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