Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist and leadership consultant. He is the bestselling author and coauthor of over 20 books, including Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. At the conference, Henry Cloud spoke about the three types of people leaders come in contact with in their organizations and how to deal with them.
Cloud began his session by affirming the Biblical view that as a leader, “wherever you are, God has called you to be a steward for a vision,” (Daniel 2:21, Romans 13:1). As the steward of an organization’s vision, there will be times when it is necessary to correct the actions of employees, but sometimes a leader is at a loss for how exactly to handle particular situations. Cloud described how, while coaching and providing leadership consultation, leaders would begin describing their leadership team and employees, discussing their day-to-day schedules, and inevitably would begin describing a situation where they would begin with, “So, I have ‘This Guy.'” After listening to the various descriptions of “This Guy,” from his many clients, Cloud has classified the types of employees that sometimes confound leadership. Once an employee is classified, leaders will be able to better deal with the person.
Three categories of people: Wise, Foolish, Evil
Through research and discussions with leaders, Cloud has classified employees into three groups: The Wise, The Foolish, and The Evil. Each character type has a particular way they should be dealt with to ensure the best outcome for everyone. To decide how to classify an employee, a leader should answer the question, “What does a person do when the truth, or the reality of the situation, is given to them?”
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser. – Proverbs 9:9 (ESV)
The wise person is an exemplary employee. The wise employee adjusts their positions and views when the light of truth (reality) is given to them. A wise person will thank you for good and beneficial feedback. Leaders should feel free to talk with, coach, and give feedback regularly to the wise employee.
It is important to ensure a wise person’s strengths and abilities match the tasks being asked of them. Keep a wise person challenged appropriately.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you. – Proverbs 9:8 (ESV)
The fool will often be the smartest, most intelligent person around, but they do not own their problems. The fool will deny and minimize problems they have caused, and are angered by feedback. Instead of adjusting their positions and views when the light of truth arrives, a foolish person will attempt to adjust the truth the light brings.
The key to addressing a problem with a fool is to stop talking about the problem. Rather, the discussion should address the pattern of denial, minimization, and anger at feedback. When discussing these patterns, it is important to be aware that the root of the pattern could be due to a shame of failure. Kindness and understanding in these cases will sometimes help turn these people around.
If pointing to the pattern and showing kindness and understanding do not work, a leader must impose consequences. The management principal is that people change when truth arrives that they must live in. They change when the truth becomes painful.
The leadership challenge with a fool is to limit exposure. The leader must be clear about the problem, let the fool make the choice regarding change, provide structure, and consequences.
…for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble. – Proverbs 24:2
An evil person has destruction in their heart and wants to cause pain. A leader must reject a divisive person after a second warning.
The leadership challenge with an evil person is that handling them often requires lawyers, guns, and money.