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How Effective Leaders Establish Boundaries Without Losing Connection

Updated: Sep 11

Leadership is messy.

You want to inspire and influence others to action and that requires that you get up close and personal, but you don't want to get too personal as to cross boundaries and compromise the mission.

Agh! What's a leader to do?

What do effective leaders do?

1. Be Clear

“Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, get clear.” -Marcus Buckingham.

“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

-Brené Brown.

Effective leaders invest much time and thought to gain clarity about why they lead, where they are taking their people, what culture and behaviors they want to promote, and how to effectively confront and resolve conflict.

Then, they invest even more time and thought to clearly, frequently, and systematically communicate and secure feedback and alignment on this.

When you lead with clarity, you communicate the rules of engagement for everyone to know what is expected, accepted, and penalized.

Effective leaders go a step further to write these rules of engagement in a playbook everyone has access to and can refer to. When you do the same, you can relate freely with others within the structure of these well-defined parameters.

2. Be Authentic

“Authenticity is critical to leadership. That means trying to be yourself - this involves some self-disclosure, admitting what you don't know, and being willing to ask questions.”

-Robert S. Kaplan.

Effective leaders are real; they don't pretend they are perfect because they hold a position of power. They are humble, vulnerable, and transparent, allowing others to see them as human beings who also strive to overcome personal barriers in their pursuit of growth and excellence. There is, however, a thin line between being open and compromised. Effective leaders know what type of relationship is to have what kind of access to them. Understanding they model acceptable behavior, they are mindful to maintain healthy boundaries in order to maintain the integrity of professional relationships. This looks different for different situations. Professional ethics and organizational policies have often guided what is and is not acceptable. Some disclosure is on a need-to-know basis and you get to decide who needs to know what. Whether you have strict guidelines or none at all, the onus is on you, the leader to discern what personal information you can disclose to connect and relate with people without compromising professionally.

3. Be Consistent

“Relationships feed on credibility, honesty, and consistency.”

-Scott Borchetta.

Effective leaders are consistent in their behavior. When people can predict your response within a narrow standard of deviation, they know what to expect from relating with you.

This breeds trust and psychological safety if your behavior leads to positive outcomes, and distrust and dis-ease if it does not.

Positive consistency in a leader creates a safe and enjoyable environment where people can show up and contribute what they know will be valued and can expect to be consistently recognized and rewarded for, rather than wonder whether when they show up the next day the rules would have changed and the goal post moved.

Struggling with Leadership? Subscribe to Modesta Mahiga 360 Leadership Podcast to hear other industry leaders share how they navigate their leadership roles.

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