Leadership Relationships - Part 3: Symbiotic

Out of the three basic office relationships that leaders support, symbiotic is the goal.


(To learn about commensal and parasitic relationships, you’re welcome to read parts one and two in the most recent blog posts.)


Unlike a commensal relationship where there is no integration between different groups, a symbiotic relationship intentionally looks for ways to combine separate groups in positive ways.

A symbiotic relationship is celebrated because it allows for a combination of resources and talents not otherwise available to work toward a common goal. As a result, the opportunities for success are explosive in interdependent relationships.

One of the most exhilarating experiences to date is dog mushing in beautiful Alberta Canada. What makes a great dog sled team? Time to know the dogs and intentionality in training.

The best dog sled teams win cross country races and are still “smiling” at the end, even though they are exhausted.


This means each dog depends on the other and the musher, and the musher depends on the dogs; there is a balance of give and take.


It’s easy to say that colloquial phrase, “give and take,” and yet we often fail to dig deeper into what that really looks like.


In order to have a symbiotic relationship in which each party confidently gives what is useful and humbly takes what is needed requires both sides to have self awareness and trust.


This is the important part: a symbiotic relationship takes intentional, intense, and sometimes messy work to be successful.


What does it take to build self awareness? Time and intentionality.

What does it take to build trust? Time and intentionality.

If either party does not know themselves to understand when they need to take what the other party is offering and lets pride get in the way, interdependence cannot occur.


If either party does not seek to learn about and truly get to know the other party to know when and what to offer to help them sustain their resources, interdependence cannot occur.


A successful symbiotic relationship means both parties consistently make time for the following two actions:

  • Stir the ashes: After each interaction and before every large endeavor, time must be spent in thoughtful, introspective review of words and behaviors, and how things need to change for a better outcome. This is often messy, deep, and can be exhausting. However, without it self awareness cannot grow and a symbiotic relationship cannot be obtained.


  • Know thy neighbor: Ideally, before any interaction is required, time has been spent getting to know and understand how the other party operates. Be intentional about setting up time to brainstorm, see what excites them, understand their concerns and what makes them tick. This is not to get the upper hand, but to learn how to serve them.


Ultimately, it is the desire to serve that allows for a successful symbiotic relationship.



13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All