Setting boundaries is a significant leadership skill.

Setting boundaries means defining what is “ok” and what is not “ok”. It means defining where you place your attention, which habits you want to build, and which processes you set with others.

Enforcing boundaries can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the information below to guide and support you on how to set boundaries as a leader.  

Why it is important to set boundaries as a leader

Boundary setting is really important. If you want to lead others, you also have to start to understand what is it that we stand for.

As you move up the leadership ladder, you will have increased demands for your time and attention. You will have to manage upwards and downwards. Think about the process of managing budgets, customers, clients, different stakeholders and your team. You then also have to manage your own work and the work of other people. 

Setting boundaries helps you become really clear on where you want to spend your time. 

Knowing and setting your boundaries is a way for you to show what you accept versus what you don’t accept. What is okay versus what is not okay. What you stand for versus what you don’t stand for. 

Setting boundaries is also about the different types of boundaries. 

What are your boundaries as a leader? 

Defining your boundaries means that you define where you want to place your energy and attention, how you want to work with others. It is also about what is important to you. 

But let’s make this clear. While boundaries are important, they can be difficult to set. Be compassionate with yourself if you don’t get it 100% right from the start. 

Setting boundaries can often mean that you have to disappoint others. It can mean you have to say no. The clearer you are about your boundaries, the easier it is going to be for others to work with you, because they will start to understand what you can and can’t do.

It’s your responsibility to set your boundaries. Nobody’s going to set them for you. 

Here is an example for you. If you spend a lot of time doing overtime and you always go above and beyond, and you’re the last one in the office, it’s up to you to change. The company, the organisation, will take what they can get.

If you set this as your standard, that you will stay late, then the company will expect you to pick up the phone at all hours of the night. 

It is up to you to hold your boundaries by managing these boundaries. As a leader, it is also up to you to lead by example. Manage your emotional energy and set the different types of boundaries you require. 

The different types of boundaries to set as a leader

Emotional 

First we have emotional boundaries. This is about the emotional energy that you give towards yourself and towards others. How much do you want to invest into yourself and into others?

Material 

Second, it’s about the material list. Boundaries on your possessions. What is important to you and what do we want to share with others? How do you want others to treat your possessions?

Time

The third area is your time. How do you want to spend your time? How much of yourself do you want to give to things that you need to do and how much time do you want to give to others? What time of day are you available?

This also means looking at your balance. Balance within your life. How much time do you want to spend on the different areas of your life? Your career, friends, family, financial situation, social activities, creativity. 

Physical 

The fourth boundary is physical boundaries. This is your direct environment and your body, of course. So what are the boundaries that you’re setting around who is allowed to enter that personal space?

It’s also about your appearance and how you want to come across. How do you want to look? 

Mental 

The last boundary is your mental boundaries. It is about your thoughts, your beliefs and how you want to show up. It is about your mental space and capacity.

Now you know and understand the five different boundaries, there are some important questions you can ask yourself. These questions are here to help dive deeper into how you can implement these boundaries and discover more about where you stand with them. 

Questions to help implement boundaries 

You want to ask yourself the following four questions. These are just examples. You can go a bit deeper, but start with these. 

Firstly, look at the five different boundary types, how do you feel about each boundary type? What are your first thoughts? Think about what came to your mind when you first read them. 

The second question is about starting to think where you lose most of your energy. Where do you feel the most drained?

After these initial reflections, let’s go a little bit deeper. 

For each of these areas start to ask yourself: 

  • Where do I need to set and define better boundaries for myself? 
  • What are the areas that I am finding I have not really defined for myself? But are very important to me? 
  • How much do I want to give myself? 
  • Which area do I need to define and set better boundaries with others?

When you’ve done this, start to reflect on what actions you can take. Ask yourself, where do I have to communicate my boundaries? 

Start to think about the rules that you are putting in place to set your own boundaries. This will make a big difference to protect your own energy as a leader. 

Final thoughts 

Boundaries are important to set as an emerging leader as they help set the stage for the rest of your career. Don’t worry about having all these boundaries set now. 

Pick one or two boundaries that will have the biggest impact on your life and career and invest some time in that area. Become really clear on the boundaries you need to set and start to maintain and communicate. 

If you want to learn more about being a leader and want to learn what makes you a unique and authentic leader, take my free quiz today. You will be given practical tips that you can implement from today onwards to step into your authentic leadership style.