Professional Intimacy: The Secret of Sustainable Leaders

by  Christina Haxton  |  Leadership Development

I got my first opportunity to consciously stand up for what I believed in in 1994.

In the last year of my Master’s program, my thesis involved research on the process of creating a successful business partnership.  Using Appreciative Inquiry, our process resulted in a model of a synergistic triangle consisting of three equally key ingredients:

  1. An Understanding and appreciation of self, as in intrapersonal intelligence;
  2. An Understanding and appreciation of other, as in interpersonal or social intelligence;
  3. The resulting relationship system then gets created and continually loops around, offering each person the opportunity to develop as individuals and therefore re-contribute, thus co-create, a dynamic, complex system that is the unique, dynamic business partnership

In the early 1990’s the unspoken, unwritten rule in the business world was “Don’t Talk About Relationship” or any of the soft, fluffy stuff humans were made of.  We were all expected to leave that stuff at the door and get to work!

Regardless, after 12 years in business, our design resulted in not only building our own successful business and partnership, but also served as a model for our clients to build sustainable partnerships.  Through the process we first laid out in that thesis up until now, I continued to learn and grow both intra-personally and inter-personally as a result.  We learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation.  Following the old rule and disregarding the complex and dynamic relationship systems we create through all of our relationships, however brief, is ridiculous.

Here’s the point:  My thesis was nominated for publication in the college journal … an honor, for sure.  However, the committee stated it would only be considered if I changed the title.  They objected to the phrase I used to symbolize our design for a successful business partnership: Professional Intimacy.  Sexual harassment in the workplace was such a touchy (pun intended) topic in the early 90’s, the committee frowned upon that description in the title.

I stood my ground on principle because even though the rule was “Don’t talk about RELATIONSHIPS and WORK,” I couldn’t in good conscience back down.  Besides, I’ve got a strong oppositional reflex, too.

I ran across the dusty, bound thesis a few weeks ago and wondered … did I do the right thing?  How would my career path have changed had I decided to belly up?  Would I have gotten “here” sooner?  I suppose I’ll never know…

What would you have done?


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Ed Han  |  30 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Christina, what a place to make a stand! I applaud your decision: I think that everyone got so gun-shy in the 90s that standing up to things like that are important.

I’m not sure that I would have had the courage of my convictions now to make that choice then, to be honest.

Lee Schwarz  |  30 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Kudos to you for taking a stand and making the right decision at the right time.

I am disappointed that you now question that decision- and wonder if it hindered your career.

It bolstered your integrity and created a better you to handle the world.
Be proud you put yourself in a position to look forward with self confidence and hope and look backward with no regrets.

Daud Yar  |  30 Jun 2011  |  Reply

I would have changed the title because:

1) It is kind of misleading, especially at the time.

2) By changing the name of the paper — and not the overall message or thesis — it would have been printed and still have the same effect on readers. It is far better to choose your battles carefully, than hold your ground most or all of the time.

I did enjoy reading this post. Even though I suggested some things, I make the same mistakes from time to time.

If you still have the paper, in an electronic format, I would love to read it. The topic sounds very interesting. Again, the post was great, and thank you for asking for others’ opinions.

Have a nice day. :)

Christina Haxton  |  15 Jul 2011  |  Reply

Daud, Lee & Ed,

I appreciate your thoughtful responses to “Professional Intimacy: The Secret of Sustainable Leaders” post. While I unfortunately no longer have the paper in electronic format (yes, it was that long ago), I am revising, updating and submitting part of the paper as a Chapter for the Lead Change Group Book Project on Character-Based Leadership … stay tuned!


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