Christian Jobs, Church Employment - Advice, Tips, Help

You can help ground America's leaders in God's word!

How to Achieve the Leadership Results You Want by Setting Boundaries

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Updated Oct 22, 2013
How to Achieve the Leadership Results You Want by Setting Boundaries

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Henry Cloud's book, Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge (HarperBusiness, 2013).

As a leader, it’s important to have strong plans and strategies to accomplish those plans. But stopping there, as too many leaders do, won’t help you actually achieve the results you’re seeking. You need to go a step farther by setting boundaries – structures that create an environment that motivates people to do the work necessary to make the plans become reality.

Here’s how you can set boundaries that will help you achieve the leadership results you want:

Look beyond your plan to your people. Seek God’s guidance not just to develop a smart plan for your organization’s success, but also for getting people to do what it takes to make the plan work.

Learn why boundaries are important. By setting boundaries for the people in your organization, you can define and shape what is going to be, as well as what isn’t. Keep in mind that the results you’ll get from your work as a leader depend on two factors related to setting boundaries: what you create and what you allow. Reflect on what kind of organization you’ve created or allowed up until this point, and ask God to show you how it should be different from this point on.

Lead people in the ways their brains can most effectively follow. The right boundaries make it possible for people’s brains to function as God designed them to work. Human brains need to be able to: focus on something specific, not get distracted by competing data or toxicity, and be continuously aware of relevant information. So ask yourself: “What structures, disciplines, and practices make sure that your people are attending to what is most important?”, “What processes do you have in place that are inhibiting what is disruptive, irrelevant, or destructive?” and “How do you keep people conscious of what they need to remember in order to make constant progress?”

Create an emotional climate that makes brains perform well. It’s crucial to avoid a negative climate and create a positive one in your organization, since a negative working environment causes chemicals to flow through people’s brains that hamper their performance, but a positive environment releases brain chemicals that help people work well. Ways to do that include: communicating in a tone that’s soft on people while being hard on issues, empathizing with people, giving feedback that motivates people to work hard without making them feel afraid or stressed, and helping people learn from their mistakes while giving them opportunities to improve their performance rather than punishing them.

Develop connection and unity among the people on your team. Work to build and maintain connections between the people working with you. Define operating values and shared goals for your team; constantly observe the relationship dynamics among people on your team and adjust the way your team works together accordingly; design meetings around activities that will drive connection rather than simply getting together; listening carefully to each other’s thoughts and feelings; work toward shared purposes and goals; seek mutual awareness of each other; use body language and facial expressions to show openness and warmth; collaborate with each other; help people see what roles they play in moving your organization’s shared story forward; resolve conflicts; regulate emotions; reflect on emotions; and repair broken relationships through apologies, forgiveness, humility, and humor.

Prevent negative, powerless thinking from taking root and promote the growth of positive, empowered thinking in your organization. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind every day so you can resist negative and helpless attitudes and embrace the power of positive thinking. Encourage your team members to actively engage the negative realities they encounter and find positive ways to respond so you all can solve problems and overcome challenges.

Help people get in control of what they can control. Focus your people on what they have control of that directly affects your organization’s desired outcomes. Then they’ll be motivated to work hard for those results.

Build a high-performance team. Figure out what values and behaviors actually drive the results of your organization. Then consider which values and behaviors cause good outcomes to happen while also preventing bad outcomes from happening – and focus on your team’s efforts on those specific values and behaviors. Build trusting relationships among all the people on your team, keeping in mind that trust grows when people: feel understood, know that someone intends to help them, see others display credibility and strong character, believe in someone’s capacity and ability, and see that someone has built a good track record of achieving results. Create a trusting working environment by: defining trust, defining your shared objectives as a team, defining operating values and the behaviors that will get you there, using case studies, making specific covenants for specific behaviors, developing accountability systems, and observing yourselves to evaluate how well you’re really working together and what changes you may need to make to work together more effectively.

Lead yourself in ways that create great performance in others. Set the right boundaries for yourself, so you can inspire others to follow your leadership example. Those boundaries should include: opening yourself up to input from other people about your work performance so you can gain a greater perspective on what’s effective and what needs to change, responding to the feedback you receive with humility and a willingness to learn from it (rather than with defensiveness, blame, or denial), not allowing single events or results to define you but instead evaluating yourself according to what is going to drive big-picture results in your organization, working to change unhealthy patterns of thinking or behaving that are holding you back from success (from avoiding conflict or hesitating to take risks to being distracted or overcommitted) and protecting your time and energy from being depleted unnecessarily so you’ll have those resources available for when and how you most need them.

Adapted from Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge, copyright 2013 by Dr. Henry Cloud. Published by HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY,      

Dr. Henry Cloud is a leadership consultant, best-selling author, speaker, and clinical psychologist whose books have sold well over 5 million copies. He consults and speaks for companies and organizations in the area of leadership and performance, and is highly regarded for his ability to connect personal and interpersonal development with the needs of business. Dr. Cloud has written, or co-written, more than 20 books, including the two-million-seller Boundaries and his most recent books, Necessary Endings, Integrity, The One Life Solution, The Law of Happiness and 9 Things You Simply Must Do. Dr. Cloud co-hosts the nationally syndicated radio program New Life Live, which is heard in more than 180 markets. Dr. Cloud founded and built a health care company which operated treatment centers in 40 markets in the western United States, for which he served as clinical director for 10 years. In that context of hands-on clinical experience, he developed and researched many of the treatment principles and methods that he communicates to audiences now. After selling the company, he devoted his time to consulting and coaching, spreading principles of hope and life-change through speaking, writing and media. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tori, and their two daughters, Olivia and Lucy. Visit his website at

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at:

Publication date: October 22, 2013