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Boundary Spanning – The Critical Leadership Tool

What do you know about the term “Boundary Spanning”?  Is this the new buzzword or leadership flavor of the month? Let’s look at what the term actually means and then I believe you will see my fascination and agree that it is here to stay!

“Interdependence” is the wave for the 21st century. That is what Boundary Spanning is about and why it is definitely a skill that expands from leadership to individual members.  It is the tool and method to build global interdependencies, which is the mutual dependence between things and can define complex systems! In this context it is used as a complex network of relationships.

Most definitions state that Boundary Spanning is “the efforts by an organization to establish connections both within and outside the organization”.   It can also mean establishing and building “bridges” between different levels of employees, like executives and managers, or even between a company and its distributors. In other words there are no boundaries. It’s building your own personal information network from many different sources.  The main tool is in building strong relationships.

There are five boundaries to work across in and out of your own organization:

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We’ve explored what it is and why we need to develop this skill of communication, finding common interests and similarities across boundaries. Now we need to investigate how we can put this into practice!

Considered these steps:

  • Direction: a shared understanding of common goals and strategy
  • Alignment: the combined coordination of resources and activities
  • Commitment: a commitment to collective success
  • Manage: the process and strategy of finding common or new ground

Keeping this in mind, think of your own boundaries. There may be intrinsic rules to break in order to use this new skill and tool. These can be biases, our need to protect, or sometimes exclude out of fear or frustration.  Building an awareness of roadblocks and managing them will help you ride the wave of the 21st century!

Recommended “ Boundary Spanning Leadership by Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason”






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