The Link Between Leadership & Boundaries
Leadership is definitely a passion of mine. My business slogan is “Discovering Potential. Inspiring Action. Working together.” – all things a good leader does. I was always good at working with leaders before I became a coach, and continuing to work with leaders made the move from Human Resources (HR) to Coach so much easier.
I want to talk about the link between effective leadership and boundaries. I still hear often from Managers that they have an “Open-door policy”. I was always a firm believer in the open door as well. If you are leading it’s incredibly important to be there for your team. Having matured a little I have learned that having an open-door policy also requires having some good boundaries.
In my HR roles, I always had my door open, and people knew that. While this can be viewed as a largely positive thing, what I watched happen was that people tried to pass their responsibilities back to me at times. Or they came to vent and then didn’t do anything about the issue at hand. That’s OK, sometimes you need to vent, as long as it ends in something productive. Sometimes the most productive thing was for people to hear themselves vent so that they could go on to resolve the problem. Other times doing nothing wouldn’t solve the problem, but they hoped I’d leave it at that. I started to put boundaries around what people could and could not vent to me about. The door was still open, when it came to the venting however, in my role as HR manager, there were things that I simply could not hear and then do nothing about. Once I know I am forced to deal with certain things. I also put some boundaries in around when I could be disturbed. When I needed to focus on something I closed the door, and people understood this to be a time when I was not available.
All of these boundaries helped me and others to take personal responsibility for ourselves. Allowing people to “dump and run”, created stress for me. Especially if they told me something I couldn’t legally keep secret. Setting those boundaries at the beginning gave people the option to share or not. It also made them think about solutions before they came to me, or they informed me that they needed to vent to find a solution and we accepted that. Closing the door when I needed to focus helped me get my work done and keep the stress to a minimum as well. It always amazed me how much I got done by simply closing the door for an hour.
The takeaway here is to be clear and not only communicate your boundaries to others, but then stick to those boundaries as well. In our relationships sometimes we aren’t clear with what’s going on for us or what we expect and then we are annoyed with the other person for not complying with our needs. What we need to do is look at ourselves and see what our responsibility is in this situation. You have to look at yourself and see if you have been clear, if you spoke in a way the other person could understand and if you listened to their needs.
As a leader you need to look at whether the person has all the skills and knowledge to do what you asked and then if you gave them the tools to do it. Next time you are frustrated with someone or something, like a boundary that has been crossed, ask yourself, “What’s my part in this situation? What could I have done to avoid this?” and most importantly “What can I do now to fix this?” and “How can I avoid this in the future?”.
Becoming a leader requires that we get to know ourselves, the better we know ourselves the easier it is to communicate with others. We are all leaders in our own way. Whether at home, at work, in volunteering roles and so on. Taking care of yourself with some good boundaries is helpful for everyone. It will make you a better _____. You fill in the blank.