Professional Intimacy: The Secret of Sustainable Leaders

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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