Mel Savage Executive Coaching

Use Boundaries to Level-Up Your Leadership Style

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Here are 4 examples of how to use boundaries to accelerate your leadership development.

My mom went from her parents house, to marrying my dad, to emigrating to Canada in 1966. She speaks and understands English, but she doesn’t read or write very well.

I remember going to the grocery store with her as a kid and writing out the checks so she could sign them.

So when my father died in 2009, my husband and I took her in.

She had never lived alone. And with the world going digital, her English skills weren’t up to the task. Now she can translate everything, but back then, that wasn’t available.

Fast forward 14 years, she’s still living with us.

Beyond the fact that I have the best husband in the world, the only way we have survived is by setting and sticking to boundaries.

I’m not talking about boundaries for her (which would never have worked btw).

I’m talking about boundaries for how we will behave or react when something happens.

For example, when my mother yells my name from her basement apartment to have me fix her iPad… again… I don’t drop everything and do it right away. I give her a specific time based on my schedule that day.

I didn’t tell her not to ask me for help during my work hours. I didn’t tell her to walk up the stairs and not yell. I didn’t say “I’ve shown you 20 times before”.

I didn’t try to change her.

I decided on what I will do WHEN she does what she does.

We think of boundaries as something to control how other people behave.

But boundaries are really about you.

Boundaries are the tool you can use to create new leadership thinking and behaviors. They are guideposts to trigger intentional thinking and actions when something happens.

What will you do when your boss texts you at 9 pm? Or emails you on the weekend?

What will you do when your report comes to you to solve a problem? Or complain about someone else?

What will you do when a peer complains about your department to senior management?

You can set boundaries to show up as the leader you want to be when something happens outside of yourself.

But that’s just the beginning.

Have you ever thought about setting boundaries for things you do to yourself?

That’s next level boundary setting.

These are the kinds of boundaries that help you accelerate your self awareness and emotional intelligence.

Here are 4 examples of next level boundary setting to help accelerate your leadership development.

1. Self-Trust Boundaries

You fear failure because you’re not sure what will happen. You worry because you want to make sure you’re ready to handle things “just in case”. You say mean things to yourself (that you’d never say to anyone else) because you think it somehow motivates you to improve.

These are opportunities to activate self-trust.

Remember, you got to where you are today because you figure things out. You learn. You adapt. You’re resilient. You can give yourself permission to trust that.

There’s no need to fear failure because what ever happens, you’ll figure it out. There’s no need to worry, because no matter what, you can handle it. You don’t need to say mean things to yourself, because you can make things happen without it.

Your boundary here is whenever I catch myself fearing failure, worrying or saying mean things to myself, I will stop and remind myself that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to handle it.

2. Emotional Boundaries

What are the emotions that get in your way of results? Impatience? Frustration? Insecurity? Fear? In what situations do these emotions show up most? How can a boundary help you manage your emotions?

My Client thought her boss wasn’t a great leader. According to her, anyway. Her growing frustration made her want to leave her job… which would have been a shame because she loved her job. So she set a boundary for her self.

Her boundary became when I have a negative thought or judgment about my boss, I’ll add something I appreciated about them.

She didn’t try to stop feeling frustrated. But by adding the emotion of appreciation, she became less frustrated. She developed a more balanced view of her boss and was able to stay and grow in her role.

3. Communication boundaries

Communication is a broad topic. There are multiple ways to communicate and receive communications. Your boundary here will depend on where you want to grow.

Here’s one of my examples.

I used to interrupt people before they finished speaking. I would be the first to speak when the room was asked a question. My leg would bounce madly under the table during conversations or presentations (body language communicates).

These were all signs of my impatience because I was more focused on what I needed vs. what others needed or were saying.

When I decided to change this behavior, I set a boundary that whenever I felt impatient when someone was speaking, I would stop, breath and refocus on what the person was saying vs. what I thought about it or needed from it.

4. Time Boundaries

People are always going to give you more work than you can do in a day. That’s not their fault. It’s not their job to worry about how much work they’re giving you.

It’s your job to lead your time.

I find the biggest challenge for leaders isn’t figuring out how to prioritize their workload. It’s believing they have the agency to take the lead. They think they have less say than they actually do about deadlines, what they work on, which meetings they go to, etc.

They think their workload is happening to them and they have no control.

One of the first things I work on with overworked clients is to help them take back leadership of their time. That includes avoiding saying things like “I don’t have enough time” or “I have too much to do.”

The boundary they set for themselves is when I hear myself complaining about time, I remind myself I’m the solution to my current workload.

Bottom line: Use boundaries on yourself to level up your leadership style.

When you set yourself a boundary, it becomes a trigger for you to consider an alternative thought or behavior and can quickly level up your leadership style and emotional intelligence.


I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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