Imagine if company handbooks included policies governing what personal information employees could and could not share. While there are topics that are generally discouraged, like politics and religion, we usually do not provide hard and fast rules around conversation topics and often allow the culture and the employees to create the standard.

This can further blur the line between personal and work lives, which can have interesting implications for leaders.

A story

In the military and as a young professional in banking many years ago, leaders had this mystique around them. We knew little about what they did except what appeared to be information that followed a very standard script.

For example, we all knew the VP of our department liked BMWs, had a Waterman pen, and was a runner. We had no idea whether he drank craft beer, vacationed in Europe or had a poker night; and of course, without social media, had even less details about his general lifestyle.

This type of curated script can be helpful for leaders because it allows us, for the most part, to control the message we send and the image our employees have about us. We can use this to further reinforce stability, structure and consistency within our teams.

On the flip side, while it may strengthen our leadership aura, it can mean the connections we have with our teams are either superficial or nonexistent.

Further, we have all been inundated with calls to be authentic. This presents a different challenge, as those of us who grew up with role models who provided a carefully curated image of themselves as leaders may not be comfortable sharing or even understand the limits to which we should share.

Similarly, different

Now that I’m at the age of the people who were in charge when I started out, many of my team members and colleagues are the age I was when I was developing my impressions and opinions of business leaders.

The lines many of my younger colleagues draw regarding information sharing are not simply further back than my contemporaries or nonexistent as many of my generation would declare. Instead, the important thing is not where they draw the line, but in remembering that they have grown up in a different world specifically as it relates to information sharing.

The information that is available on any one of us is wider and more varied now. For them, it has been like that for a larger portion of their lives; they have grown up with a different understanding of what is normal to know about someone and thus a different standard of sharing.

In some cases, this means they are even more guarded about their lives and more sensitive to the power of information; while in other cases it means they are used to sharing more information with more people.

The bottom line is, while we are all clear that there is a value to drawing a line between our personal and work lives, where and how we draw that line is less clear. As leaders we must find what level of sharing is comfortable to us and then do two things.

First, we must be aware of why that is our comfort zone and whether we would benefit from pushing it a bit; which can mean either sharing more or sharing less. And second, we must consider those who follow us and understand what type of leadership will bring out the best in them. With this information we can set a clear standard for ourselves and our teams.