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Book Reviews

Integrity: The Courage To Meet The Demands Of Reality 

by Dr. Henry Cloud

New York: Harper Collins, 2006
ISBN 13-978-0-06-084968-9
432 pages, $31.50 (hardcover)

Reviewed by Diana Theman and William S. Richard

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Book coverIntegrity has always been considered a key attribute of leadership in the profession of arms. It is also an attribute that we look for in our political leaders and in our friends and allies. In addition to being a fundamental criterion for leadership, integrity has been recognized as essential for the maintenance of effective professional and interpersonal relationships. However, integrity is an attribute that is seldom defined or discussed in any depth. In his recent book, Integrity, Dr. Henry Cloud examines the various characteristics of successful leaders – how leaders relate to the people they lead and the decisions they make. As his key theme, Cloud examines the concept of integrity, which has not only become popular mantra in the post-Enron and post-Gomery environment, but was a key focus of the Somalia Inquiry, and the MND Report on Leadership and Management in the Canadian Forces (1997).

Although Dr. Cloud is a clinical psychologist with expertise in professional relationships, he writes in an approachable and personalized manner, using plain language and avoiding the jargon that often characterizes management and leadership texts. This is a very readable and engaging book that would benefit leaders in all professions. Cloud draws on his experience – working with individual leaders of Fortune 500 companies – to provide exceptional insight into leadership success. He effectively combines personal and organizational anecdotes, including examples of how individuals relate to their children or spouses, and how managers or executives relate to their peers and subordinates.

Cloud begins with a discussion of what makes an individual successful. He asks why some individuals who are very competent in their professional lives do not rise to become successful leaders in their organizations, or in society. He acknowledges the importance of professional competency and networking as attributes of successful leaders, but suggests instead that the core competency of leadership integrity is rooted in character. In his view, it is a person’s character, rather than his or her natural intelligence, talents, competencies, energy, or opportunities that will ultimately determine leadership success.

Integrity is not a book about ethics. It does not preach morality. Instead, Cloud explores the multiple dimensions of the word ‘integrity’ to examine the character ingredients that will result in leadership success. His core thesis is that successful leaders are able to integrate six dimensions of their character. They are able to:

  1. Build trust;

  2. Orient towards the truth;

  3. Get results;

  4. Embrace the negative;

  5. Create personal growth; and

  6. Orient toward transcendence.

Cloud introduces several interesting concepts as he walks the reader through these six dimensions of character. The need to “see reality,” as well as to “orient toward tran-scendence” would seem to be contradictory, in that we might expect leaders who are grounded in reality not to seek out the higher meaning of situations. However, Cloud claims that successful leaders need to be able to transcend their current situation and to see where they fit within the larger picture of events. This is about understanding the second and third order effects of actions – winning the peace as well as the war.

Cloud makes a strong link between integrity and self-development in his fifth dimension of character – the importance of personal growth. Self-development is one of the ‘four pillars’ of professional development recognized in Canadian military doctrine within Leadership and Officership 2020. However, seldom does the discussion on self-development focus on issues of character and integrity. According to Cloud, successful leaders have both an urge and the drive to grow. They invest in themselves and they are willing to move outside their comfort zones. Cloud states that in order to meet the demands of modern reality, leaders must be growing and increasing their abilities, skills, and capacities in every area of life. One of the key messages of this book is that successful leaders achieve integrity through growth towards character wholeness in both their professional and personal lives. Part of this integrity of character includes an ability to tackle personal and professional problems, and to rebound from setbacks. According to Cloud, the top achievers have learned ‘how to lose well’ – what he calls the ability to achieve ‘grace’ by transcending a loss and learning from it.

A central theme of the book is the impact that leaders have on others. Cloud suggests that as we travel through life, we leave a wake, just like a boat. By looking back at our wake, we can gain an insight into ourselves and others by examining the trail of accomplishments. Cloud submits that a person’s wake contains accomplishments of two sorts: tasks and relationships. Cloud asks of the tasks: Is it a wake of goals being reached? Successful operations? Growth of the organization or the project deal? Things getting completed? A stronger brand? A stronger reputation for the work and the profession? With respect to relationships, he asks: Are they more trusting after working with me? Are they more fulfilled as individuals? Did they learn from me? Were they stretched?... Inspired? Did our relationship cause them to produce more?

By challenging us to ask these and other questions of ourselves and of our leaders, Integrity is an inspiring and thoughtful resource for any learning organization. This is a book that would be of interest and benefit to current and future leaders throughout the Canadian Forces.

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Doctor Diana Theman and Brigadier-General (ret’d) William S. Richard are co-teachers of courses on Leadership and Managements in the School of Policy Studies at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.