Sex and leadership

Sex or Emotional Intelligence?

This was the choice I was presented with at the recent Wisdom 2.0 summit in San Francisco. Two sessions on simultaneously. Both seemed really interesting. At the end of the day "Sex, Intimacy and Relationships: Mindful Practices for Deeper Embodiment and Connection" won out.

Pam Costa, the founder of Down To There was recounting her story of reawakening her sexual desire for her husband. The thing is, every time she said "sex" I heard "leadership".

They are quite similar I discovered. Let's look how.

1. It's an inside job first

If you want to connect with someone intimately, it pays to be comfortable with yourself first. Getting to know yourself, what you are comfortable with, getting to like yourself, knowing what your boundaries are, are all important parts of meaningful sex.

Within leadership it starts with self leadership. Knowing yourself. What you stand for. What your values and leadership vision is. It is difficult to lead others successfully if you haven't nailed self leadership first.

Both sex and leadership require in the first instance being OK with you.

2. They're both about connection

Sex is all about connection. There's no doubt that the more connected you feel with your partner, the better the sex. If you allow smart phones, TVs, stress to get in the way, the sex will suffer.

It goes without saying that great leaders spend time connecting and building relationships with their team. A great leader listens. Really listens. They put their phones down and close their laptops. They enquire in to how people are. Connection is high on the list of effective strategies to nail leadership.

Both sex and leadership are enhanced with great connectedness.

Both sex and leadership require in the first instance being OK with you. 

3. They're both better when you're present

Being present is ensuring your mind and body are "in the same place" at the same time. It's about taking it all in. Not living in the past (what happened this morning).  Or living the in the future (what could happen tomorrow). Just living the present moment.  It can be so easy to get disconnected from the present moment.  It makes a big difference during intimacy when your mind and body are both tuned into the experience.

The same is true for leadership. Strategy planning, important conversations, drafting emails, inspiring the team. It's all more effective when you are present. Being present in the moment allows you to spot what's happening and respond. It's important.

Both sex and leadership require you to be present in the moment to be most effective (and enjoyable).

4. We're all normal.

We all come in different varieties. Some of us like women, some like men, some like both. Some of us have excess desire, some struggle for desire. For some of us sex is mostly a mental thing. For some of us sex is mostly a physical thing. The point is that we are all normal. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how you like sex.

Within leadership, we are also all individual. Some of us struggle with the people side of leadership but have the strategy and visioning sorted. Some of us find it easy to inspire people and more challenging to strategise. The key to leadership is to realise that you are OK as you are. Then work on your strengths to build your leadership capability. There is no "normal" when it comes to leadership.

Within both sex and leadership, there is no "normal". 

You work with what you have, accepting yourself as you are. Then work with that.

5. Feedback makes a big difference.

Within sex, there are roughly three types of feedback. The first is the traditional "harder, faster" type of feedback. The second is "sexy feedback", i.e. encouraging and flattering but suggesting something a bit different. This is the "that's amazing, a little to the left would blow my mind". Then there is the third type, and most powerful. The type of feedback when you talk about sex when you're not in the middle of it. This is the type of conversation where you are being vulnerable. It's harder but ultimately a lot most powerful. Being able to mix up your feedback and give and receive all three types will enhance your sex and intimacy.

Screeds have been written about giving feedback in a leadership context. "Harder, faster" can equate to "have it on my desk by the end of the day". There's no confusion over what is required, but it's not all that meaningful. Then there's the leadership version of "sexy feedback", e.g. "that project you ran was exceptional, what could you do next time to make it even better?". And then the third type. This can happen during regular 1:1s or coffee chats. It might sound something like "How's it going. Let's talk about how we can take this to the next level".

In both sex and leadership, feedback is one of the fundamental skills to success.

Feedback is important in the boardroom as it is in the bedroom.

6. You need to keep it fresh.

I'm sure we've all been there before. When things in between the sheets get a little tired. Maybe you are assuming you know all about what the other person likes. However unbeknownst to you that has changed. Maybe you're on autopilot. Not really taking the effort to try new things or get outside of your comfort zone. The key to a successful long term intimate relationship is often about spicing things up. Trying that little bit harder. Giving something a shot. Even if it makes yourself a little bit vulnerable in the process. The upsides obviously are that you may find something new and amazing. And at the least you're adding variety to keep things interesting.

Within leadership, your journey is never over. The mastery of leadership is something you will work your whole life at. Additionally, the people in your team, even if you know them well, can change. New career aspirations. Challenges outside of work. New skills and abilities. It's important to keep it fresh. Keep learning. Keep an open mind about your team.

Both sex and leadership require a "beginner's mind". You will never know all there is to know. You will always have more to master. Complacency can lead to problems in both areas.

A good choice

At the end of the day, I'm pleased that I chose Sex over Emotional Intelligence. Sex and Leadership as it turns out are more alike than many of us would think at first blush.

Mel Rowsell