All Articles Leadership Inspiration Effective leadership begins with professional intimacy

Effective leadership begins with professional intimacy

3 min read


Christina Haxton combines psychology with humor and brain science to enable newly promoted executives to harness the power of their potential to become authentic and sustainable leaders. Connect with Christina on TwitterLinkedIn or her blog. Also, check out “Lessons from the T.R.A.I.L: The Art & Science of Exceptional Leadership” on her website.

With everything else you are juggling, how can you create positive lasting change and build resilience in your team, support complex human interactions, help people embrace conflict, build trust to retain valuable employees and be able to adapt, and yet be flexible enough to change at the speed of light while continuing to focus on the business’ bottom line?  That tall order calls for a little conversation about intimacy. No, not the talk about the birds and the bees you had with your teenager, but professional intimacy.

Beyond Emotional Intelligence (understanding your needs and what motivates you), and Social Intelligence (understanding of and attending to needs of others) lies the practice of Professional Intimacy. As a leader who learns and practices the skills of Professional Intimacy, you see the relationship as the platform upon which you develop your sustainability. You not only strive to develop yourself personally, but also help others to find their own unique purpose and creativity, like the ripples when you throw a rock into a pond.

Your ability to communicate with care and compassion is actually felt and builds trust. There’s a bonus in it for you, too. Richard Boyatzis’ research on the positive physiological effects of compassion shows it reduces power stress, a unique stress experienced by leaders. (Ignore the effects of power stress and you are headed for physical burn-up, mental burn-out, or both).

Professional Intimacy is a three-step process in which you can become a more sustainable, resilient leader while building trust.

  • Know thyself. Leaders can answer the following questions to develop awareness and clarity: Who am I? Where am I going? Why am I going there? Reflective questions build your EQ, or emotional and social intelligence muscles,  in your brain. Take time to reflect on what you learn about yourself from successes and mistakes.
  • Seek to understand others. The same brain chemicals that are responsible for you feeling fear are also responsible for you feeling curious.  The only difference between feeling fear and feeling curiosity is how I explain the situation to myself, which may be inside or outside my awareness. When you are curious rather than defensive (fear) and willing to listen to others at a deeper level, the conversation becomes a way to make a positive connection at a personal and emotional level. This is experienced as caring, which inspires hope, connection and resilience in others. It is this skill of communication that affords you as a leader the greatest opportunity to make a difference in your day-to-day interactions with others.
  • See relationships as opportunities. It is in relationships that we learn and grow and in conversation that we create reality for ourselves and others. Here is your opportunity to build trust and create a strong relationship, which is the key ingredient to facilitating positive change, inspiring creativity and fueling internal motivation in people. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn and grow, which is the ultimate brain candy.