In his book The Power of the Other, Henry Cloud presents an intriguing case for “connecting” as the essence of leadership. He asks leaders to evaluate their leadership connections in terms of four grids: 1) disconnected; 2) in a bad connection; 3) in a pseudo-connection; or 4) truly connected to others.

overcoming-2127669_1280Leaders in the first grid (disconnected) are frustrating to be around. Their followers often feel unheard, misunderstood, and unable to have an impact. The second grid (bad connection) is not necessarily a connection with a bad or abusive person, though this does happen. It is a pull towards a person who makes us feel not good enough, defective, or inadequate. This person or persons, Cloud asserts, have come to have power over us; a power to make us feel bad, and to function even worse. It could be just about anyone. A boss, a friend, or even a family member.

This “bad connection” usually manifests in “high expectations, perfectionism, unreasonable demands, a critical spirit, withholding of praise, shame, guilt, and put downs.” It drains our leadership energy, well-being, focus, and passion.

Recently, I experienced two separate situations with people caught in a bad connection. Leaders playing this game are in an approval-seeking entanglement.

What’s ironic is that a “bad connection” does not always require an actual person. It can be our own inner critical voice. It may appear as a voice from our childhood, or a time during our formative years. What was implanted becomes an unreal, shaming expectation. Telling people who are caught in this vicious cycle to stop, is not the answer.

So what is the good news? It is relationship. It is the power of something from the outside that heals the patterns on the inside.

Henry Cloud wrote The Power of the Other because human experience has revealed the pattern. Relationships matter. They have the capacity to hurt…and to heal. Cloud affirms, “When you get the power of the other on your side, you can surpass whatever limit you are currently experiencing or will ever experience in the future.”

What bad connection do you live with?  Or better yet, what bad connection might you help resolve for someone else? 

Dennis Nichols is the Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership degree at William Jessup University and teaches in the School of Christian Leadership