Max DePree, the founder of Herman Miller, wrote some amazing things in his 1989 book, “Leadership is an Art.” Smack-dab in the middle of the book is a powerful chapter entitled “Intimacy.” Here are a few things Max says in that chapter that I just love:
Intimacy is the heart of competence. It has to do with understanding, with believing, and with practice. It has to do with the relationship to one’s work. (p. 53).
Beliefs are connected to intimacy. Beliefs come before policies or standards or practices. Practice without belief is a forlorn existence. Managers who have no beliefs but only understand methodology and quantification are modern-day eunuchs. They can never engender competence or confidence. They can never be truly intimate. (p. 55).
We find intimacy through a search for comfort with ambiguity. We do not grow by knowing all of the answers, but rather by living with the questions. (p. 57).
Intimacy arises from translating personal and corporate values into daily work practices, from searching for knowledge and wisdom and justice. Above all, intimacy arises from, and gives rise to, strong relationships. Intimacy is one way of describing the relationship we all desire with work. (p. 58).
Intimacy is not a leadership responsibility. We simply don’t select, develop, and reward intimacy in our leaders. I wish we would, but we don’t.
Intimacy is always discretionary. It will always be a choice that too few make because the road to intimacy travels through the land of excellence. As Robert Quinn says so beautifully, “The land of excellence is safely guarded from unworthy intruders. At the gates stand two fearsome sentries – risk and learning. The keys to entry are faith and courage.”
What’s keeping you from choosing intimacy at work? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!