Leadership Insights

Inspiration and Practice Tips for High-Achieving Women Leaders

How to Set Boundaries that Propel You into Higher Leadership

balance being strategic boundaries effective boundaries leadership success preventing burnout speaking up work-life balance work-life harmony Jun 19, 2024

Imagine sitting in your office deeply focused on important work when someone abruptly swings open your door and starts venting about something totally unrelated to you. You’re trying to being polite and end up listening far too long. Or maybe people are pushing tasks to you at the last minute, expecting you to prioritize their requests over your pre-planned schedule? Or maybe someone is encroaching your personal space, using flattery or flirty names in a business setting, trying to establish their power over you? No kidding! These are just some of the many real-life examples from successful women leaders we coach.

Boundary violations can have many faces. What they have in common is that they are often subtle and can be humiliating. And while women recognize that they feel uncomfortable in these situations, they’re often caught off-guard and don’t respond effectively. Can you relate?

Many women leaders struggle with setting boundaries that stick. The repercussions are significant—diminished productivity, increased stress, and a sense of losing control over your own time and space. This struggle with boundaries is more than just an inconvenience; it's a critical barrier to your professional success, your well-being, and your personal fulfillment.

In this blog post, I share with you key perspectives and strategies that will transform how you establish and maintain boundaries. By mastering our strategies, you’ll be able to create bulletproof boundaries that people respect and that allow you to be more successful and reclaim your time, energy, and peace of mind.

The 3 Biggest Mistakes Women Leaders Make When it Comes to Setting Boundaries

When listening to our clients, there are three themes that come up again and again. They’re mistakes that women leaders are making that are costing them their professional success, advancement opportunities, work-life balance, personal well-being, and fulfillment in life.

1. Trying to be Nice

The first mistake is trying to be nice. Many women leaders struggle to establish effective boundaries due to deep-rooted cultural and psychological factors. From an early age, women are often socialized to be nurturing, accommodating, and self-sacrificing. These societal norms trigger a series of limiting beliefs and a fear that asserting boundaries could lead to them being perceived as selfish or uncaring. Workplace cultures that glorify overworking and stigmatize setting limits further exacerbate this dilemma. Without transforming their conditioning, women often feel paralyzed and pressured to conform to these societal expectations, trying to be seen as dedicated, committed, and caring. The result: overcommitment and neglect of personal needs, leaving no time for rejuvenation and leading to chronic stress and exhaustion.

2. Wanting to be Liked

The second mistake is being blind to their desire to be liked, resulting in avoiding conflict and the disease to please. Out of fear of being labeled as difficult, uncooperative, or not a team player if they set boundaries, many women leaders prioritize others' needs over their own, even when it is detrimental to their well-being and leadership effectiveness. What they often don’t realize is that them wanting to be seen as agreeable and supportive is exactly what’s causing the stress they’re experiencing, and it is what is costing them that higher level leadership position.

3. Quietly Hoping

Often because of societal conditioning, women leaders lack confidence and trust in their authority and their right to stand up and speak up for themselves. Instead, they remain quiet and hope for others to ‘come to their senses’ (i.e., not do what you deem inappropriate), only to be disappointed and frustrated when they don’t. It’s like being frustrated about people breaking the speed limit without you telling them what the speed limit is.

Women leaders who are quietly hoping their boundaries would be respected, actually don’t even have boundaries, and I’ll show you why further below in this article.

Now, if you just made the decision to, from now on, stand up and speak up for yourself, congratulations! That’s great, but I want to caution you: Use your voice and actions effectively, otherwise you overcorrect and go off the road on the other side! We don’t want you to be perceived as too pushy, too assertive, or even aggressive.

We’ve seen women leaders completely override their needs and creating huge roadblocks for their success because they were not aware of the mistakes they were making and didn’t have a trusted and proven formula for transforming their conditioning, worries, and fears into confidence and leadership power, like our clients inside our exclusive development program for women leaders, The Inner Circle (TM), do.

The Problem with Not Having Effective Boundaries in Place

Failing to establish and maintain effective boundaries can have significant professional and personal consequences for women leaders. Here are some examples:

A lack of effective boundaries leads to an increased number of interruptions of your workflow. The more interruptions the less efficient you are. Research shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus after a distraction. With just three interruptions a day, that’s an hour per day and 5 hours - more than 1/2 a day! - per week.

Overcommitment as a result of a lack of effective boundaries negatively impacts the quality of your work, your productivity, and your leadership effectiveness. It causes imbalance and leads to increased stress, anxiety, exhaustion, frustration, and dissatisfaction.

Overextending yourself goes hand in hand with a neglect of personal needs. It drains emotional energy and negatively impacts self-worth and self-esteem. Personal identity can become defined by work roles rather than personal interests, leading to a loss of self and an increased risk of burnout and mental health issues. Without boundaries, there is no time for hobbies, relaxation, or self-care, leading to decreased overall well-being and life satisfaction. The negative consequences spread into all areas of your life, including your personal relationships.

Without effective boundaries, you’re quickly perceived as pushover – and treated as such. Pushovers are not respected as leaders, neither by peers nor by subordinates. A lack of boundaries harms your credibility and professional reputation and limits your career advancement opportunities. Not having effective boundaries in place is a clear signal that you’re not ready for a higher-level leadership position!

Why Effective Boundaries are so Important for Women Leaders

Effective boundaries are essential for women leaders to thrive in their roles and achieve higher leadership positions. When boundaries are clearly defined and respected, they offer numerous benefits that can elevate a leader’s effectiveness and satisfaction in both their professional and personal lives.

Effective boundaries allow you to lead at a higher level and open doors for new opportunities and advancements.

Your respect for boundaries garners respect that you receive from others. Women leaders who maintain strong boundaries are seen as disciplined and reliable, making their opinions and directives more valued. Setting boundaries confidently projects authority and self-assurance. This confidence enhances leadership presence and trust, increasing your influence. Consistently maintaining boundaries also enhances professional credibility. Women leaders who are known for setting and respecting boundaries build a reputation for integrity and reliability, boosting their professional standing and opening doors for new opportunities and advancements.

Effective boundaries help eliminate distractions, allowing for a more efficient use of your time and increased focus. Your uninterrupted workflow enhances your productivity and the quality of your output, leading to superior results and higher standards. Your newly gained focus allows you to concentrate on the most impactful, high-priority tasks and strategic planning. This dedicated time for important work drives organizational success and fosters innovation, two important indicators for leadership quality.

Furthermore, boundaries significantly reduce stress and increase resilience, allowing leaders to perform at their best, maintain a positive outlook, and handle challenges more effectively.

In terms of well-being, boundaries are essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. They prevent work from encroaching on personal time, ensuring that women leaders have time for self-care, personal interests, hobbies, and relationships. This balance is crucial for your physical and mental health, life-satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness.

How Your Boundaries Propel You into Higher Leadership

Next, I’d like to take your understanding of how to set and maintain effective boundaries to the next level. Because there is something deeply foundational that, if you understand it and follow it, will change your leadership game forever.

I invite you to take a moment right now and think about someone who recently overstepped your boundaries. Maybe you don’t know if they really overstepped your boundaries, but you remember that what the other person was doing or how they were treating you felt not okay. What was the situation and what was going on inside of you?

In all the conversations we have with our clients about boundary violations and in all the situations they share with us, there is one common theme in what they’re describing:

They experience a mix between self-doubt, hurt, and not knowing how to protect themselves. They’re thinking: “I did something wrong. Where do I need to improve?”, and at the same time they have this subtle feeling of hurt and “They can’t do this to me!”. But they often can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them feel that way.

In an attempt to protect themselves, they avoid crossing paths with those difficult people and build walls, hoping they’d hold up against potential future attack.

Is this true for you, too?

If it is - and it is if you’re like most people! - you’re approaching boundaries the wrong way.

To be successful with setting boundaries, you need to start by shifting your perspective. Because boundaries are not about deciding how far someone else can go or must not go. Boundaries are not about what you expect someone else to do or not to do – none of this is even within your control. Instead, boundaries are about what You control and, thus, what You do or don’t do.

I want you therefore to think about the exact same scenario that you just thought about again and come up with at least 3 things that you can do to regain your power in the moment when something like this happens again. Then try it!

Inside The Inner Circle (TM), our exclusive leadership development and professional networking community for powerful women leaders, we teach our clients a powerful 5-step process that they can use to go from struggling with boundaries to establishing bulletproof boundaries that others respect without any questioning in as quickly as under one hour.

If you would like to establish your bulletproof healthy boundaries with ease, in a way that increases your leadership impact and how people respect you, and that frees up your time and energy not only for your most important work but also for self-care, relaxation, and fun in your life, click here to learn more about The Inner Circle and schedule a call.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Effective boundaries are essential for women leaders to achieve both professional success and personal well-being. By understanding the importance of boundaries, recognizing the consequences of failing to maintain them, and addressing the root causes of boundary struggles, you can transform your leadership approach and reclaim control over your time, energy, and peace of mind.

If you're ready to take the next step in your leadership journey and learn how to establish and maintain bulletproof boundaries, book a call with Pink Executives today to explore how our programs can help you thrive.

Click here to book your call and begin your transformation toward effective boundaries and enhanced leadership success.

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