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Today we’re continuing our series Ultimate Leadership. Today’s seminar is entitled “Boundaries in Leadership.” Our speaker today is Dr. John Townsend. Let me tell you a little bit about John. He’s a clinical psychologist. He’s the author of numerous books, including Boundaries, How People Grow, and Who’s Pushing Your Buttons? Will you please welcome Dr. John Townsend?

Now, today’s broadcast is “Boundaries in Leadership.” You guys are probably the experts in that considering you sold a whole bunch of books titled “Boundaries.” What are we going to learn in “Boundaries in Leadership”?

We’re going to tie in the idea of boundaries to how it makes what you do less crazy-making for you and more successful for you. It’s how to make your . . . whatever . . . your product or your vision or goal work better.

Great. We’re looking forward to today’s seminar, so I’m going to turn it over to you.

Okay. Thanks, Bill. Hi. Glad to be here and thanks for being with the series. We’re really excited about being able to talk about what we call Ultimate Leadership, because we believe all leadership can improve and there’s things we can learn, not just about specific strategies and visions and people skills, but to really check under the hood. See what’s going on inside you at a personal, relational, and emotional—and ultimately, spiritual—level to help you be a better leader. So thanks for being here. We hope it’s a good time for you.

Whenever I give this talk, I always think about a guy whose daughter, whom he loved dearly, grew up. She went to him one day and she said those words that every father of a daughter dreads to hear. She said, “Dad, I met the man I’m going to marry.

He said, “This is interesting.” He said, “I don’t know this man.”

She said, “Yeah, well, I’ve been away at college and he’s the guy.”

So the father said, “Well, look I—your mother and I—raised you in a way that we really want you to be comfortable and live in a life that we’ve had consistent with that and all that. I want to meet this man.”

She said, “Sure, Dad. I want you to meet this man, and he can come tomorrow if you’ve got time.”

He said, “We’ll have an interview.”

So the interview time comes, and the young man shows up, and the dad says, “Well Jim, nice to meet you. So you want to marry my daughter.”

Jim says, “Yes, sir. I do.”

“Well you know I don’t know you, and this is a big deal, and her mother and I really want to make sure that she’s with the right person. So I have a few actual questions, specific questions for you.”

And the young man says, “Fire away, sir, I have no secrets.”

So the father says, “Well first, very simply, what do you do? I mean, what’s your job? I don’t know what you do. What career and all that?”

The young man says, “I don’t have a job. I don’t have a career. I don’t do anything, but God will provide.”

Now, this put the father in a dilemma, because the young man played the God card. If you’ve had a really kooky person in your life that you thought was absolutely psychotic but they played the God card, you want to just tell them to take some medication. But they say “God”, and you think, Well maybe they’re an angel or a prophet. Maybe I ought to listen to this. He’s going to give the guy another chance because he played the God card. So if you’re really a crazy person, make sure you play the God card.

“My second question for you is, What are your assets, your stocks, your bonds, cash, land? What do you have? Because I want to make sure she’s taken care of. So what’s in your portfolio?”

The young man says, “I have no assets, I have no land, no portfolio, no nothing, but God will provide.”

Now the father is traumatized. He’s sweating. He’s like his life is flashing before his eyes. Because these aren’t good answers, but the God card.

“Third question. What are your goals and your aspirations and your dreams? What do you want to accomplish in life?”

Young man says, “No goals, no aspirations, no dreams, but God will provide.”

The meeting is over. The young man leaves. The father is sitting there just kind of traumatized. His wife walks in and she says, “Well honey, how’d the meeting with the young man go?”

The husband says, “Well sweetheart, there’s good news and there’s bad news.”

She said, “Well what’s the bad news?”

He says, “There’s bad news, believe me. This guy’s got no job, no assets. He’s got no goals.”

The wife gets traumatized. She says, “Oh my goodness, that’s horrible news. What on earth could be the good news?”

He says, “Well there is good news, sweetheart.” He says, “The young man thinks I’m God.”

Some of you that are parents, this is a little closer to home than for others of you. But there’s a moral in this story, which has to do with what we’re talking about. In every leadership position you will be required sometimes—requested, pressured—to be God. That’s kind of what happens in leadership. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because there’s needs out there. However, there is a tendency in all organizations to put more on their leader than they should. Guess what? There’s a tendency within the leader to put more on them than they should and that’s why you need boundaries. So we’re going to be talking about boundaries as an aspect of giving you clear responsibility for your job, your definitions, what you’re doing, what you want to accomplish; because boundaries really do things that prevent burnout, discouragement, non-productivity, not getting goals met. That’s what they’re about.

One of my favorite passages in the entire Bible about boundaries and leadership is in Exodus 18, which is where Moses is . . . kind of looks like he’s burning out. He’s judging the people. I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of Israelites were in the wilderness then, but he’s the judge. So if somebody steals your cattle, you go to Moses. If somebody throws a rock through your house (they didn’t have houses in the wilderness), through your tent, you’d go to Moses. So all these people are lining up to go to Moses, and the poor guy, just day and night, he’s judging the people because somebody needed to do it.

Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, comes to Moses and says, “What are you doing?” And Moses says, “Look at me. I’m judging the people. I’m making their decisions for them and doing all the tough stuff.”

You would think right then that Jethro would go, “You are wonderful. How do you do it?”

Jethro said, “Why are you doing this?”

Moses said, “They need me.”

If you ever saw a leader who doesn’t have boundaries say this word, you’ve diagnosed him. “Why are you so burned out?” “They need me.” Defining yourself by needs. So you think Jethro would say, “I’m the luckiest father-in-law in the world. All these people need you. Look at what I got?” But Jethro was not made out of that stuff. He was made out of much sterner stuff.

Jethro says, “What you are doing is not good.”

You can see Moses going, “What? I thought you told me that, you know, you were proud of me. And I married your daughter and all these people need me.” But Jethro wasn’t into the stroking. Jethro said, “This is not good.”

So you see Moses going, “Okay, what do I do?”

Jethro said, “I’ll tell you.” He said, “Delegate people for yourself as judges under you and train them so that they have the capacity to judge and then they do the same thing.” Then the people all of a sudden have basically a court to go to and Moses could take whatever cases he needed to take and others could take theirs.

Now, I don’t know how that ended up. Could that have saved
Moses’s ministry and life and leadership? I don’t know. All I know is it was a very successful intervention about boundaries on a leader who didn’t have really good boundaries. So we want today to give you what you need, whether you’re in a global Fortune 500 company or you’re a small group of four people or something in between, so that you can see what you need to be able to have the boundaries that you need.

First off, let’s do the kind of overall picture. Because, you know, Bill talked about how Henry Cloud and I wrote a lot books on boundaries, but still I think it’s a weird word. I always thought it was a weird word, because if somebody doesn’t know the word, and I say, “Let’s talk about boundaries,” they say, “Oh, you mean walls. Yeah. Disconnection, pushing people away.” Then I go, “No, but it sounds like that.”

I have to be realistic about this. Let’s talk about what it really means. A boundary, simply put . . . the clearest definition of a boundary is a property line. A property line, like in your home or apartment or condo or your tent. It’s that line which determines what you are responsible for and what you’re not responsible for. Like if the plumbing goes out inside your house, well, whose problem is that? That’s my problem. I’ve got to call a plumber or I’ve got to do what I can do to fix it and all that.

However, if at the same time my neighbor has a problem . . . now I care about my neighbor. The Bible tells us to care about the people we are with and to be on their side, to walk the second mile, third mile, love one another. But ultimately my neighbor’s plumbing problem is his problem. Now, if you’re the typical codependent leader, you’ll go, “That’s not true. His problem is my problem. He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.” I’m sorry, there’s a law of physics here. That law of physics is your back can only take so many brothers. At some point your back’s going to break because God created us to carry certain weights. That’s what the property line tells you. This stuff is in your property line.

You know, there’s a great passage that Jesus called us to in Luke 9, where he said, “If anyone wants to follow me, he’s got to pick up his cross and carry it.” The word cross there means burden. The problem is some leaders think they have room for lots of people’s crosses on their back. You know what I mean? So what will happen is, they will take this person’s emotional problems, or this person’s financial issue, or this person’s catastrophe, this person’s irresponsibility, this person’s character issue, this person’s laziness, this person’s self-centeredness, and all of a sudden they’re a collection of crosses. They’re walking around trying to lead an organization. You know what’s weird about that? That means there’s eight or ten people running around without a cross. They are fine. Their cross is gone. But the leader has all these crosses because they didn’t draw the property line.

That’s the advantage of the property line. I said it was really physics earlier, and I really meant that. There are laws of spiritual physics that I believe—and I’m using physics metaphorically—that say that when everybody does their job and picks up their own load, like it says in Galatians 6, everybody’s supposed to carry their own burden, their own load. What happens is, the organization goes on. The person in charge of music does this, the person in charge of finance does this, the person in charge of the grounds does this, and the organization works because everybody’s clear about their property line. So your property line is what you’re responsible for and not everything outside your property line.

Instead of saying you’re responsible for, it’s probably most helpful to say, you’re responsible to. I’m responsible to other people, responsible to people that I care about in my organization, outside my organization, but I’m not responsible for them. I’m only responsible for what’s inside these walls. These property-line walls.

Let’s talk a little about the two aspects of boundaries that describe them. The first is that boundaries define us. We had a talk a while back on definition and the leader, and this is a related subject. Boundaries tell us who we are and who we are not and what we are for and what we are against and what we love and what we hate. People who are defined are people who are very clear about what positions they take, what their opinions are. You kind of always know where they are and they really don’t mind disagreeing.

I hate it when I go out to lunch with somebody who’s not defined. I say, “Where do you want to go?” I have a friend who’s this way; we’re still working on it. I say, “Where do you want to go out for lunch?”

“Where do you want to go?”

I’ll say, “Is there an echo in here? Let’s try this again. Where do you want to go out for lunch?”

“Where do you want to go?”

I’ll say, “Okay, where do you not want to go, because we’ll go there just to teach you a lesson.” But I’ll pick Chinese or Italian or whatever, and we’ll go there, and I’ll kind of never know if he’s really enjoying himself or not because he’s always so politically correct and happy about it all. Then I’ll find out about three weeks later. He’ll go, “You know, I really didn’t like going to that restaurant.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well I didn’t want to be a burden to you.”

Well now you’re a burden. You’re three weeks later a burden instead of a right-then burden. People who are defined are clear about where they are and where they aren’t. Does that mean that, kind of sometimes, that they can bump up? Yeah, but you know that with good leadership and good organization, there’s always a lot of truth going on. People don’t freak out or react when you disagree. They basically, kind of like, say, “Okay, that’s a speed bump, let’s go in this direction.” That’s what definition is.

The second thing that boundaries do, though, is they are also protective. Protective. Has anybody heard the word burnout? If you study leadership at all in this country, in this world—I travel internationally working with these people, covering these materials—there’s a world burn-out thing where there’s lots of needs going on. The fields are white and there’s great opportunity in ministry and in business, but leaders are losing steam, energy, losing vision—you know what this is all about—because they don’t have protection. There are some times where the leader needs to think, I’ve got to protect my feelings, and my heart, and my emotions, I’ve got to protect my insides because as we speak there’s nobody out there having a meeting to protect me.

The Bible has some words about this that are very, very clear. In Proverbs 4, he says, “Above all, guard your heart, for from it flow the well springs of life.” Guard your heart, which means this isn’t about being selfish; this is about taking care of your life and your feelings, and your values, and your soul so that you can live to fight another day. Too many people are saying, “Well that’s just being self-centered.” No, look at guarding your heart as stewardship. Do you want to be a sprinter-y leader? We’ve got a lot of those—hundred-yard-dash people. Or do you want to be a marathoner? The only way that you’re going to do that, is by guarding your heart and protecting yourselves sometimes from either toxic people, or situations which are bad for you, or problems which you don’t need to be a part of, or meetings and committees and phone calls that you shouldn’t be involved with because you have to do other things. That is the protective nature in boundaries of leadership, and it is highly, highly important.

What leadership does is, it’ll eat you alive. Not because there’s anybody bad out there, but because people have so many needs, there’s so many opportunities. So boundaries protect you and guard your heart. The funny thing—if you’re a bibliophile like I am—about that passage is the two words in the beginning: above all. Now, what do you think above all means? It means first. First in preeminence, first in priority, first in order, so instead of last of all guard your heart, which it doesn’t say, it says first of all. Because God has designed us so that if we’re not protected, we cannot grow, mature, lead, bring good fruit to our organization or to the kingdom or to anywhere. Remember the protective function of boundaries.

Let me talk about some examples. Like I said, this is a strange word, and it’s more accepted than when Henry and I wrote this material three hundred years ago, but it still needs an explanation. Here’s some examples.

Your words are a boundary. The words you say, the words you speak where you sit down with someone and you say, “I agree with this,” “I disagree with this,” or even more confronted-ly, “You know, Sam, that bothered me when you did that. I don’t think you really did the right thing.” When you have to confront someone, use the right words. The truth is a boundary. When you give someone feedback that they need, remember negative feedback and positive feedback are both feedback. Some people only want to give the positive and they end up flattering and stroking people, and people don’t get to look at their mistakes that they need to look at. So look at your words, look at the truth.

Look also at the distance. Sometimes in leadership the leader gets so enmeshed in the people’s situations and problems and all that, that they need to pull away just to protect themselves and put their head together. That’s a boundary. Saying, “I need to pull away from here.” Similar to distance is time. Every good leader knows when it’s time to . . . Remember when Jesus did this. He had many, many people he was healing. He walked away, and walked away into the wilderness to be alone with God. So distance and time are good boundaries too. Boundaries are invisible, but you use visible things to bring about an invisible result. Words, the truth, people, distance.

Let’s talk also . . . not only talk about the examples, but what is inside there. What am I trying to protect? What am I trying to develop there as a leader? If I’m looking at this line, this little gate that I’m building around my life, what’s inside there that I want to protect? We use the term treasures because it has to do with the pearls of life. Like don’t throw your pearls before swine and the treasure passage that Jesus taught about, where he said where your treasure is that’s where your heart is. That’s where your heart is.

So what is it you’re trying to protect? Several things. You want to make sure, like I mentioned earlier, that you’ve got boundaries around your heart, that not everybody has access to your heart. Do you realize there’s some people . . . Like the old country song says, “You done stomped on my heart, you smashed that sucker flat, you just sorta stepped on my aorta.” Now, that is a profound truth about life that really sounds silly now that I say it that way, but don’t let anybody step on your heart. And also, you can’t take ownership of someone else’s heart.

How about your values? You are responsible for what your values are for your organization, your group. We believe in growth, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness. These are the things you say; these are nonnegotiables. You know styles and preferences, that’s one thing. But my values are really black and white. We live and die by values, because that’s all that really matters, the kind of foundation of my life. Not only should you take care of your values but you should protect those.

Here’s another one: your feelings. Guess what? Did you realize leaders have feelings? I know we’re not supposed to, but we do. You have a dual issue of boundaries here. You have feelings, and also you have people that sometimes want you to take care of their feelings. Leaders get a lot of pressure, not always intentional. Leaders get a lot of pressure from people to make them happy. Have any of you guys taken on the task of making an unhappy person happy as a leader? Now, if you want a full-time job with no benefits but you’ll be busy, try to make somebody who is unhappy in your group happy.

Now, I’m not saying you don’t solve problems. You certainly solve problems. But a person’s emotions and feelings are their problems—and we need to assist them and support them, especially as it relates to the job or the function or the ministry—but ultimately their feelings are their burden. We’re supposed to help them and support them, but they are responsible for those. Those are some of the things to be careful about with kind of like your own boundaries and the boundaries of other people.

Specifically, let’s take a look at aspects and boundaries for you that you want to pay attention to. Because boundaries are highly, highly related to leadership. In fact, the best leaders in the world who lead the longest and feel the best about it and bring the best results are people who have really good boundaries.

Here’s the first one. Ownership. Ownership. Let’s suppose you have a financial goal or a people goal. We want to expand our church and bring in three hundred more people this year. Or we want to make this many more products, or whatever. The ownership of this really belongs to you. The leader is really the person who presents that goal, and that’s a lot of responsibility. The one who owns that is the person who’s responsible for the results. If you’re like middle management in the corporation and the corporation has a bad year, you can’t say, “Well, it’s because of Jim here,” unless Jim did something really bad. Jim was part of a big picture. Who do they always look at? Look at CNN and FOX News. They always look at the CEO or the person who’s at the helm and say this is why the ship’s going up or down. That’s not bad. That’s reality. Don’t aspire to leadership if that’s not what you could accept. That’s the way it is.

At the same time, while you’re supposed to bring about results, you’re also supposed to have limited investment. Here’s the funny part. You’re supposed to bring about all the results, but you’re not supposed to give your entire life to the job. Is anybody seeing a problem here? That’s a problem of boundaries where the leader who learns, You know, even if I gave my whole life to this, it wouldn’t be worth it. Even if it succeeded, if I realize I have to work harder to bring about the results. That’s a person with good boundaries.

I have a friend who only works the last three or four days of the month. He has the sort of a job where he has that room, because he could be highly productive in that last week because he’s got to make his money by the end of the month. He happens to be that kind of a person who doesn’t have to involve his life, and he’s a very talented and creative person, and so he doesn’t work for three weeks and then he works for a week. Now, he has a limited investment for what he’s doing, but he’s responsible for the results.

So good leaders are people who kind of determine, Here’s how much I’ll give to the job. I’ll give—if it’s a full-time job, if you guys are full-time leaders—I can give my fifty hours a week. Or whatever the average is these days. Or if it’s a volunteer thing, I can give my three hours a week. Or my six or my two hours a week, whatever that means. This is how much I’m going to give, and I’ll take it on knowing I’m responsible for the results.

So people with good boundaries are able to say, I feel like I can do that. They kind of can do the math and realize I’ll leverage myself, I’ll get other people involved, I’ll find ways to do this so I’m maximizing myself. As opposed to, “Here’s my cell number to everybody; you can page me day or night. I don’t want a life. I don’t have a life. Come live in my house; we have a guest bedroom. We’ll take on everybody. Give me your tired, your poor.” Well you’re going to be a sprinter, I can tell you that right now. So ownership is a huge area in leadership.

The second one is a little word you find in the Bible a lot. It’s called self-control. Self-control. Galatians 5, in the passage about the fruit of the Spirit, one of those is self-control. People and leaders who have good boundaries have good self-control. They keep the vision and the mission ahead. Now, everybody that I know that’s in leadership . . . you know, they’re good with the inspirational posters you have on the wall. “Keep going, baby.” Or “Losers are losers.” Or whatever your poster says. Those are great, but you need something internal besides a poster. You also need the ability to say no to things that are strenuous, that you don’t need to be involved in. Guess what? Sometimes you need to sometimes disappointment people. That’s what self-control is. It says, I know when to say no to something and when to say yes to something.

I was consulting one time with a pastor of a very successful church, but who really kind of bugged people. He was the kind of charismatic, loving figure that everyone wanted to be his best friend. A staff of, I don’t know, maybe fifty. Have you ever had fifty people say, Do you want to be my best friend? Of course, everybody wanted him to marry them and marry their daughter and baptize them and bury them when they died and go visit them in the hospital. He brought me in.

After I did the look of the organization, everybody else wanted me to say, “Sam, you’re just not a loving person.” What I had to say was to the other fifty people. “You guys are wrong. I’m not saying that sometimes he’s not abrupt—you’ve got to work on kindness—but when he says ‘I don’t have time for lunch’ . . . I’ve seen his schedule. He doesn’t have time for lunch. He has time with his own circle for lunch and his family, time with God, and he’s trying to create something, but he’s doing some things that only he can do. That’s one of the definitions of good leaders. And he is going to disappoint your needs for being a father figure, a mother figure, a best friend, or whatever, and he should keep doing that.”

So they didn’t ask me back. It worked out really well, because they realized they had a wish for him to have no control, and it was good because they saw the big picture and they went with “We want you to have this self-control.” He said, “I want to be the kindest person in the world, but I’m feeling pressure to burn out and be somebody I’m not.”

Good leaders have self-control. He kind of went through the dark waters on that one. I had a lot of respect because it would have been easier to give in to everybody and then kind of like . . . You know, the person who does everything a little bit but accomplishes nothing, a jack of all trades? He would have ended up like that. As it was, he has an exponentially growing church, people coming to Christ, people being discipled, people in recovery . . . all these great things are happening because he has self-control.

Here’s the other aspect. Another word that you know very well. A word that we value. Love. Love. Leadership and good boundaries create love. Love for what you do, for the people you’re with, love for God. Why is that? Because boundaries give you space. They give you freedom and choice. We talk sometimes that good leaders have a no muscle. Everybody’s got a yes muscle. Every time I go online I say yes to something and buy it with a credit card. I have a great yes muscle. I have a lot of stuff I don’t need. We don’t all the time have a good no muscle.

But when you have a no muscle—where you can say, “This doesn’t work for me. This is wrong,” either confront someone or say “I’ve got to have my own time” or space or whatever—it creates room in your head and in your heart and in your soul to make free choices. When you make free choices, then when you’re ready to invest in someone else, you do it because you want to. For as the Bible says, you do it from a full heart, like in 2 Corinthians 9, like around verses 6 and 7, the giving passage. It says God loves a cheerful what? Giver. You’re supposed to love not resentfully or grudgingly, but from a full heart, for God loves a cheerful giver. That’s not only true in your money, but it’s true in your relationships and your emotions. A leader who has good boundaries is the most loving, caring, supportive, grace-filled person in the world, because she or he can say no. If you can’t say no, you know what happens? You get resentful. You get to feeling controlled, like you don’t have any freedom, and you begin to lose love. People who have good boundaries know that they can choose anytime to invest in a person or spend time with a person, and they do it because they’re wholehearted.

Now let’s switch that around for a second. Let’s suppose you want some time with a leader and that leader’s always got everybody after him, and there’s emails and cell phones and pagers going off. He goes, “Okay, I’ve got a few minutes. What do you want?” Well don’t you just feel Kumbaya, right now, I mean isn’t that . . . I mean no. That’s a horrible yucky feeling to have the leader say, “I’ll [grudgingly] give you this twenty minutes.”

I’ve had those kinds of meetings, and whatever is supposed to happen, there’s no love there, there’s no connection, there’s no attachment. Just basically this kind of, I don’t know, this stingy giving of someone’s time. It’s a half-hearted thing. I would just as soon do without that, wouldn’t you? As a leader you’re in the same position, that not only are you doing this for yourself, but so that you can be a better leader by saying no and then loving because you have the choice. Not only are you doing this for your relationships—your personal relationships, because every leader has to have good personal relationships where you’re not controlled by somebody’s demands or whims or feelings—you’re choosing out of your own heart, not only for you, not only for the people you are with, but also for the organization. You are modeling health for your organization. The leader who has self-control in leadership and says no can model what love looks like in the organization.

Because guess what? I’m a psychologist. I’m sorry, I have to admit it. As a psychologist I see leaders and the people in the counseling office, and I will find out that in organizations people have never seen health. People have never seen someone who can say no and still love them, or someone who could say yes without resentment. They don’t know what it feels like. They didn’t have that in their family of origin. All they had was somebody saying yes and no or somebody being powerless and feeling like a victim. To have a leader who says, “It’s okay for you to say no to me and it’s okay for me to say no to you and we still live in grace with each other,” I’m telling you, the doors pop off and the windows pop off when people realize, “If you can do this, I can do this.” Those organizations are the most free, adult, grown-up, most productive, because the health is in there. Health begets health; success begets success.

Well that was the good news. It’s always good to have the good news first so then we can go to, “Are there any obstacles?” Well, yes, there are always some obstacles, because we’re people and we don’t know what we’re doing all the time. And as leaders we don’t know what we’re doing, but we’ve got to pretend like we know what we’re doing because we’re leading people. You’re going to have some obstacles that get in your way as a leader that I want you to be aware of. So whether you are new in leadership or you’ve been doing this a long time, here are a few things I want you to be aware of so you will know what’s ahead.

The first one is be aware—I’m going to use a psychobabble word, but I’m going to explain it—of your internal conflicts about setting limits. Now, if we had time for a little question and answer right now, we could talk for a long time about why it’s difficult for you as a leader to set limits, say no, disagree, and kind of disappoint people. But if you had to bring it down to the big ones, there would probably be three. There are others, but I think these are the primary ones that I think leaders struggle with.

One is a fear of loss of love. A fear that if I say no to you, you’re going to withdraw from me, pull away emotional resources from me. And God constructed us to connect, constructed us to be love. We need love. It’s like it’s our fuel; it’s our gasoline. So a lot of leaders who are afraid to have people disconnect from them . . . they’ll do anything anybody says. Just don’t leave me.

Next is a fear of wrath. Fear of wrath, someone’s anger, someone being mad at them. In psychology we call it being conflict-phobic, doing anything you can to avoid a conflict situation. What we do is, we train people in our organization that all they’ve got to do is get mad and we’ll do whatever they say. Otherwise we’ll just kind of be like a deer in the headlights. That keeps you from setting limits if you have a hard time when somebody’s bugged or annoyed with you, rather that realizing everybody has their tantrum. They’re having their tantrum right now. It’s a bad tantrum but it’s a tantrum.

Here’s the other one: good old-fashioned guilt feelings. Your guilt will keep you from setting good limits. Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. Guilt feelings have to do with when you take parental responsibility over the people in your organization. When you’re not the boss anymore, not the supervisor, not the manager, not the leader. When you’re the parent, and if they’re unhappy, you feel like you’ve destroyed, let them down, you’ve ruined them. It’s your fault that the penguins in Antarctica died yesterday. It’s kind of like this global sense of responsibility that God never put on you. He meant for you to be feeling bad for the things that you’ve done that you’re responsible for, not those that you aren’t.

So be aware that if these issues occur and these are the reasons you have a hard time setting limits and boundaries as a leader, to deal with these. Make sure you’ve got people who will reassure you that you’re doing the right thing, they’re on your side, and you see the world’s not falling apart. It really helps.

Here’s another one. When you have some kind of an organizational problem. Organizational problem. Every good organization has a leadership structure, business plan, and a model to it. Some don’t work well. You may have, for an example, an organization where nobody can say no. Where it’s against the business culture, the organizational culture, to say no. If you’re on the team, you say yes all the time; and what we need is that people are for us. And if some bright-eyed guy says the emperor has no clothes, he’s a bad guy. Deal with that, because that will keep you from setting limits as a leader.

Whatever your sphere of influence is—if it’s a few people, department, or whole organization—make sure you’re developing a culture where it’s okay for us to say no, because that’s where growth comes from. As opposed to no, we only want people on the team showing they’re behind every crazy, kooky idea. What happens then is nobody gets anything done. You want a pro-honesty, pro-truth organization as opposed to an organization that is more into denial than with reality. Organizations live in reality. That’s what they have to deal with. Either budget problems, people problems, or industry problems, or catastrophe problems, but they must be able to dig out and solve problems and get their hands dirty.

Here’s another one where the leader has some sort of lack of focus. A lack of focus if you’ve been into people-pleasing—not people-caring (we’re all supposed to care about people), but people-pleasing—in the same sense that maybe Paul talked about in Galatians 1. Where he says, “Am I going to be a man pleaser or a God pleaser? I need to be a God pleaser.” If you’ve been into people-pleasing, you often find it’s like you’re a boat that doesn’t have any kind of direction. You’ll find you’re going this way, this direction, this idea, kind of living from crisis to crisis. If an organization is living crisis to crisis, there’s a leadership problem. Not that organizations don’t have problems, but if every time they make another turn there’s a survival decision, there’s an issue there that generally has to do with some kind of leadership issue where somebody has a difficult time maintaining the focus, maintaining the way, even when it causes frictions and sparks.

So just be aware that that will kind of keep you on the wrong end of things. Make sure you’ve just got people around you who are saying, even when you make difficult decisions, “We listened to you, we’ve scrutinized you, we’ve thought about all sides of this, we agree with you, we’re on your side.” As a leader, then you know you’ve got reality on your side and you can move ahead. But leaders really struggle with lack of focus if they don’t have really good boundaries.

Here’s another one. When love and limits are divided. When love and limits are divided. Let me talk about our insides for a second, because we’re always talking about checking under the hood as a leader. There’s a part of every leader that’s full of grace, full of love, empathy, compassion. Most of us leaders either were asked to be in leadership or chose it because we cared. Something in you wanted good things to happen to people. Wanted to see something change in the world and make a difference. So there’s a part of you that’s just got all these good, warm, positive feelings towards people.

There’s another part of you, though, which is your more structured, task-oriented, honest, confrontive part, and that part is not as relational. It tends to be more forward ahead. Every leader sometimes has to be the nanny and sometimes the coach. Sometimes, there’s, “Oh, poor baby,” and the coach is, “Get back out there in the field and get dirty, get hurt.”

Everybody has that whole formula; and for a good leader those are integrated. A person is loving and truthful at the same time. That’s why in a healthy organization nobody gets their nose out of joint when somebody says, “That bothers me,” or “Can we talk about that?” or “That’s a problem,” or “That attitude issues thing,” or “That was a mistake.” People kind of, like, deal with it, like sitting around the family table, like you watch a movie with a bunch of . . . That’s why I like to watch Italian movies where everybody’s yelling at each other over the table. I think that’s so healthy, because nobody gets their feelings hurt, they get it out, and they deal with it.

Then there is the problem where the leader is divided inside. He or she can only be loving and not be very honest because the care is there but not the capacity to confront. Then every now and then the truth comes out.

Here’s how it goes. You put up with stuff you shouldn’t put up with, and put up with it, and put up with it, and then after about six months . . . growl. You come out with, kind of like, are you Godzilla or what? And there’s this angry, “We’re going to get everybody together.” Kind of like a mean, wrathful, unloving, yet truthful, yet honest part. But it’s not very caring. That’s what I mean by the leader whose love and limits are divided. If that’s the way you are . . . And most leaders have kind of that issue. I want to be connected, I want to be liked. And be positive at the same time, knowing they’re not being as truthful as they need to be.

Then the truth comes out either in some outbursts or action. Then it’s time to learn what Ephesians 4 says, among other places, to learn how to speak the truth—in what? In love. That integrates love with limits. The leader who is integrated is always connected, always relational, but at the same time has a really, really high value for honesty, truth, boundaries, and limits, and sees those all as good.

Sort of like some people say, In the Old Testament God is the mean God and in the New Testament God is a really sweet guy; and they don’t realize they’re the same guy. God’s not a multiple personality. He didn’t get the picture in the second part of the book. He was the same way the whole way. If you went back in the Old Testament seeing God as a leader, you’ve got somebody who’s judgmental, but also compassionate, tender, the One who is El Shaddai, the many-breasted One, the One who’s got the love of a mother. Then you go to the New Testament and this sweet little Jesus is grabbing the whip and knocking people around. You kind of get the idea that there’s leadership that’s integrated between love and limits.

And here’s another issue that you’ll have to face, which is going to be what we call a resource issue. A resource issue. Why do leaders sometimes have difficulties in having boundaries? Because sometimes they don’t have what they need to do the task. Whoever is above them . . . Whenever your senior, or superior, or the person you’re accountable to, or your board, supervisor, owner, or whatever that you have to answer to isn’t resourcing you with what you need, then a lot of times you won’t have good boundaries. Because let’s face it, doing a task is going to take X amount of time. If you’ve got a project and it’s supposed to take you twenty hours a week to do the project, yet you’re still being asked to work forty hours doing something else, can you see a problem here? The problem is you’re being asked to do sixty but you’ve only got forty, forty-five, fifty.

It’s kind of like . . . I talk about these spiritual physics like a physics problem. You can’t put two quarts of water in a one-quart jar. So many times you have to appeal to the people you’re working under and say, “You tell me what you want to get done. Do you want me to do the project and half the other job? Or do you want me to do the job and half of the project? Because what I’m telling you is here’s my time card, here’s what I’m doing with my time, but I only have this much time.”

So be aware this is not an internal thing; this is a reality thing. Sometimes the organization—this is just a reality—sometimes the organization will punish a successful, adaptive leader. They have been able to do more than others, then they raise the bar. My wife works—has worked for many years—in the school system in California. One thing she always noticed was that the schools that were under budget—because every school has a budget paid for by the state—that the schools that went under budget got less money the next year.

So schools learn how to do what? What do they teach them how to do? Spend, spend, spend so they get more money the next year. Some bureaucrat never sat down there and took a pistol and thought that was a problem. They just had this whole spend, spend culture. It was a problem for her because she hated to see the waste. Well sometimes an organization will do that to someone who is intelligent, motivated, structured, disciplined . . . you know, no good deed returns unpunished, said the cynic. So sometimes they’ll de-resource somebody because they look like they’re fine and they can take it to Joe Schmo over there who’s floundering, and all of a sudden the really organized, structured, motivational person—motivated person—gets no help.

That’s a cultural issue in your organization. Address that. Whatever you’re being asked to do, you have to have the time, the budget, the people, and the people hours. And if it’s a Bible study, or a home study, you need somebody’s neighborhood, and you need a DVD player, and cookies, and coffee. Somebody needs to resource these so that you can do your job. That is not being selfish; that’s doing responsible planning so that you can execute what your task is.

Those are some of the problems you can look at. What I want to leave you with is some of the skills to develop. You’ll know how to be kind of this loving and honest leader that other people are attracted to and drawn to. So here’s a few of the things you can work on.

One is, learn to be an honest person. Now, no leader would say, “Certainly, I’m a big liar, and thank you for pointing that out.” No, I’m not talking about the lie. I’m talking about the tendency to not give bad news where you need to, or not give bad news sometimes on time. The book of Ecclesiastes talks about timing a lot. It says there’s a season for everything. A season for war and peace, a season to kill and heal, a season to build up and tear down.

Sometimes people, because they don’t like to be the bearer of bad news . . . they’ll kind of be less honest and they won’t come in and sit down quickly at meetings and say, “There’s a real problem of morality here, a real problem of attitude here, a real problem of communication here, and I need to deal with it.” Basically, in leadership, whether it’s business, or ministry, or whatever, the sooner you address a problem the better. Nip it in the bud. Those things tend not to go away with time. Time doesn’t heal things. Time is like if you went to your . . . What’s that thing in your refrigerator that keeps—? Crisper. Open that up, put some vegetables in, and over time see the healing that happens. That’s not a good thing. You need to have, as quickly as possible, people hearing truth, reality, grace, and acceptance. Become an honest person. Keep short accounts.

Secondly, begin to be a person who sees themselves as separate. Good leaders don’t over identify with their position. Good leaders realize, I’ve got to have some distance sometimes. I’m connected, I care about my people, I care about what we’re doing, I care about the cause, I care about the results, but I’m not that. And they don’t over identify in the sense that they lose a part of themselves if there’s problems. So there’s sort of a detachment from over identifying that’s very, very good for a leader, because then they can pull away.

You know what leaders do who have good boundaries? They pull away and get the big picture, then they can look at the big picture and say, “Okay, I see what’s really going on, but I was so embroiled in this conflict between these two people. This person was bugged with me and so I was so over-involved with that.” They pull away and go, “What’s happening here? Are all the fights kind of all the same? Are there a lot of power struggles here? Is there a lot of territoriality in my group? Is there a lot of people who don’t know what their roles are and so people’s roles are folding into other people’s roles?” Being separate pulls you back so you can get the big picture.

Third—and this is a very practical tip, but it helps—go out and practice the talk, go out and practice having the talk. Does everybody know what I mean by “the talk”? It’s the kind of conversation . . . Henry and I wrote a book called Boundaries Face to Face: How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding. ’Cause all of us . . . nobody wants to sign up for those. You want to have a good time. But sometimes—even though the Bible says as much as possible to have peace with each other, Romans 12—sometimes you’ve got to go take care of business. If you tend to be a person, a leader, who’s more of a lover than a fighter, don’t make your first assignment going to a person you’re having a conflict with and saying, “We’re going to hash this out.” You don’t want to have blood all over your floor. It’s just not pretty. Go role play and script out and practice out with some really supportive, safe people who really care about you.

Say I want to talk to Nancy about the fact that the last three reports have been way overdue and it’s messing up the rest of the department. Nancy’s clone Sally goes, “Okay, let’s practice it. ‘Well Nancy, I just want to tell you, you’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,’ till . . . Get to the point, and they really help you get to the anxiety of what you’re afraid of, that you’re going to hurt somebody, and how to be kind, and integrated, and all those things. What happens is, the more you have the talk, the more you work out the scenes and problems you’ve been having in confrontation and boundaries. Then you walk into the situation and you have the talk or the meeting with a phone call and you’ve already had the baggage you had to deal with. Then the leader with good boundaries comes away with a pretty positive result because you’ve already imagined the catastrophic result with your role-playing situation, so you’ve been through that. You know the world’s not going to fall apart. Asteroids are not going to hit the earth. You’re going to survive and you can get through it. So don’t go into these uninformed. Don’t go into them unequipped, but be resourced.

***There’s a lot we can say about boundaries, but what we can say is that the leader who has good boundaries is the person who cares about God, cares about people, and cares about the mission. We wish you the best of that, so God bless you guys.

Thanks so much, thanks. Before we go, we’ve been talking about another broadcast, but we haven’t talked today so much about how the series got developed, where it came from, and what you and Henry have in addition to this. Would you please share a little about that?

It didn’t happen out of a vacuum. It happened really from leadership workshops that we do several times a year in Southern California. We do these one-week leadership intensives. What we do is take leaders from businesses, churches, from ministry leaders, to Bible-study leaders—anybody that wants to be a leader—and we take them for a one-week ntensive experience. Henry and I teach about their insides, and what the Bible says about leadership, and also they go into small groups where there is intensive work done on whatever it is about their own leadership and vision that ties into their heart, their soul, their mind. And they come out revolutionized. That’s where we got this material, because we feel you can’t be the leader you want to be without head experiences as well as heart experiences.

These go on throughout the year. Yes, several times throughout the year.

Again it’s in Southern California. Which is a big plus too.

Lesson Materials