If you are the type of leader for whom everyone’s happiness is a priority, you might have some issues around setting boundaries.

While being a Servant Leader is a virtue in this day and age, it also has its shortfalls.

Not too long ago a client of mine, a manager in an important client-facing role confided in me that one of her team members was constantly asking for help and work accommodations, while at the same time complaining about the difficulties of her new position. 

Even though the manager was bending over backwards to meet this employee’s needs it never seemed to be enough.  As a result, she was feeling drained and scattered over dealing with micro issues, unable to fully be supportive to the rest of the team, not to mention fulfil her own, more strategic, mandate.

What was the problem? She was trying too much to help and be liked, resulting in very flimsy boundaries between her and her employee.

Boundaries are the borderlines that convey to others what your role is, as well as what you are willing and not willing to do. Clearly claiming your boundaries allows you to respectfully and assertively communicate your needs and expectations.

What do boundaries sound like?

  • Being clear on your role as a leader: “This is what I need/want by this date and time.” No need to go into a great discussion about it. Just expect it. 
  • Prioritize your time: “Unfortunately, I cannot make myself available as frequently as you’d like to. Let’s put aside some dedicated time once a week for us to discuss your needs”.
  • Delegate to those you trust: Who else can help you?”  You don’t have to do it all.
  • Learn to say no: “No, I can’t do this, sorry.” Even though it may be the hardest thing to say, it will save you time, energy and it’ll cause less confusion. 

Setting boundaries is essential to maintain clarity, momentum and trust amongst your team. A leader who is clear on their role will garner more respect from their team members, and therefore be more effective and a greater asset to the organization. 

And even though it may be difficult to set boundaries, especially if you’re new in your role, always ask yourself Whom are you truly serving as a leader?  One or two people…or the whole team and the organization? What’s the bigger picture here? 

Once you’re able to step back and look upon the greater objective of what you do, it will be easier not to get caught in the mire of emotions and to truly serve those around you.

And if you’re wondering what happened to that employee, the manager set some boundaries around her time and energy in dealing with her, which in turn led the team member to become far more autonomous and contribute more generously towards the common goals of the team. 

If you’d like to become a more assertive communicator, please don’t hesitate to contact me!