• 161intimacyfinal


    It is becoming increasingly clear to me that social change, when done well, is an intimate act. For many years, I was taught to ignore my feelings and intuition, and to develop unassailable plans and irrefutable theories to explain and legitimize my work. These days, I don’t find this strategy as useful as it once seemed to be.

    We live in times of incredible connection. Everyone is available to everyone else, and yet leadership can feel very lonely and isolating. As I was coming of age, social change was not a profession. It happened in our kitchens, in the streets, in our churches, and sometimes even in our bedrooms. We didn’t need a theory of change or a mountain of data to justify what needed doing. We simply needed an idea and each other.

    My deepest partners in the work are not necessarily the colleagues whose newsletters I read, or whom I might encounter at professional conferences. My deepest partners are those who know my heart. These are the people I can count on to challenge me when I need it, and who will hold me up through rough times. My intimates. We know we’re in it for the long haul.

    Intimacy doesn’t require years of connection; it is potentially available to each of us in every interaction. I recently had a phone conversation with someone I’d not yet met in person. Within minutes, I recognized him as a brother. He showed his heart to me, and I offered mine in return. I believe the world shifted in that moment. In these times of political strife and conflict, I saw this as a blessing – and hope for more of this in our work.

    I’m not disparaging whitepapers, professional forums, or blue ribbon panels. They certainly have their time and place. However, if we’re going to really shift the world, we’ll need to lay down our armor – emotional and intellectual – and risk opening ourselves to one another. We aren’t going to think our way through our current social crises. We need to feel/stumble/laugh/cry/inspire each other if we’re going to seriously solve the challenges ahead.

    So the next time you are inclined to pontificate, I invite you to chat. Rather than postulate, let’s wonder with one another. Instead of defending our stances, let’s reach toward, stand beside each other, and develop intimacy. At Rockwood, we call this “relationship before task.” I imagine that work will be much more satisfying, and perhaps even more effective at creating the changes that so many of us are yearning for.


    First published in Rockwood Leadership Institute’s September 2016 newsletter

    Image by Thomas Hawk


    October 24th, 2016 | Akaya Windwood | 2 Comments

About The Author


Click here to learn more about me.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Anonymous 10.24.2016

    I watched your video and came here to give this very suggestion. I agree with you that before any real work can begin in an organization, we need to know exactly who we’re working with. We also need to be able to trust that we can truly express ourselves without judgement, but with understanding and support.

    As much as the goals are common, we’re all still different people smshed together. Relationship before task, I like it.

  • Thank you for this reflection Akaya. This mirrors my experience. Social change is an intimate act. Reminds me also of what one of my Professors at McGill used to say, “Business has nothing to do with business. It has everything to do with people.” We change the world when we embody the idea that human relationships, which thrive on intimacy, matter more, much more than tasks, reports, projects and other formal or “professional” activities. They not only matter more, they are the point. They are where the rubber meets the road and they are where social change happen.

Leave a Reply





* Name, Email, and Comment are Required

kurumsal reklam