P = Personal Boundary Clarity

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination, on co-operation, not intimidation” – William Arthur Wood

The P in IMPACTFUL leadership stands for Personal Boundary Clarity and all great leaders I know have real clarity about their personal boundaries and what is acceptable and unacceptable.  For some people, women in particular, the concept of setting a boundary seems alien, as they believe that people will like them more if they set no boundaries.  The irony is that you gain more respect and everyone knows where they stand when clear boundaries are in place.

So what are personal boundaries and how do we set and maintain them?

The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves.  We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us. Personal boundaries help us enjoy healthy relationships and attract people who are positive forces into our life and build our self-worth. Personal boundaries factor into creating a rich, fulfilling life that keeps us in control of our destiny.

  1. Saying No – Personal boundaries are defined in part by knowing when to say “no” and not feeling guilty about it. You are not expected to do everything anyone asks of you.
  2. Values -Healthy personal boundaries are based on your own moral beliefs. Going against your values for another person means that you may want to reassess your relationship with them.
  3. Identity – Personal boundaries can help you form your identity because they force you to evaluate what you want and what you don’t want in your life, and enforce those guidelines.
  4. Speak Up – When others cross your personal boundaries, tell them. You don’t have to fight with them to let them know where you stand, but calmly talking about your boundaries enforces your sense of self and purpose.
  5. Trust – Above all, don’t let others tell you that your personal boundaries are unacceptable. They do not live in your skin. You know what you need better than anyone else.

Setting boundaries is not a more sophisticated way of manipulation – although some people will say they are setting boundaries, when in fact they are attempting to manipulate.  The difference between setting a boundary in a healthy way and manipulating is:  when we set a boundary we let go of the outcome. For this reason it is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly.  Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves.  It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves – to protect ourselves when it is necessary.  It is impossible to learn to be loving to ourselves without owning our self – and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives.

During my time working in the corporate world I saw time and time again the effect that not setting clear boundaries had both on relationships and also on the performance of the business. I witnessed people taking on responsibilities that they simply did not have the capacity to do, and the effect was that not only did that person lose respect with their peers, they compromised their own integrity and ultimately control over their own life.  They failed to be leaders of their own lives.  Lack of focus, productivity and feelings of overwhelm, combined with self-doubt and low self-esteem are all signs that we have broken boundaries (Our fences are down.)  Yet the good news it only needs some slight action to start repairing the broken boundaries and we can feel revitalised and energised.

Developing boundaries and engendering respect are key components of building successful relationships and since “relationships are the life-blood of any organisation” it stands to reason why successful leaders have great boundaries.  Do you have clarity over your boundaries and what behaviour and actions are acceptable and unacceptable?  I assure you that when you set clear boundaries your self esteem multiples and everyone around you is much happier.

Extract from Unbridled Success – How The Secret Lives of Horses Can Impact Your Leadership, Teamwork and Communication Skills.  You can purchase the book here from Amazon


On November 11th, 2012, posted in: Personal Boundaries by

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