Should Leaders Talk About Their Love Life At Work?
We hear a lot these days about authenticity in business. Gone are the days when top executives could hide in concrete edifices and appear, groundhog-like, once a year for a shareholders’ meeting. Today’s leaders are encouraged to be value-driven, accessible, and human. And sometimes that might mean appearing vulnerable and even, perhaps, expressing—gasp!—love.
For some, it seems, acknowledging their partners isn’t an issue. Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, Sheryl Sandberg, Warren Buffett, and Indra Nooyi have all publicly talked about their significant others in one way or another.
It could be argued that no one is going to take issue with these business titans. But then again, maybe we can learn something from them.
So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of CEOs and talking publicly about their significant others.
How talking about your partner can help your leadership
The upsides of waxing poetic about a loved one might not be immediately clear. But there are some benefits worth considering:
You show your human side. Yes, leaders are expected to bring business acumen and razor-sharp insights to the table. But sharing a holistic vision of yourself with employees, customers, and prospects can pay dividends, too. In competitive industries, having an accessible, relatable human face at the helm represents a clear differentiator. Arguably, the foremost value that you demonstrate by affectionately talking about a partner is love itself, a sentiment that quite literally makes the world go round.
Better relationships equal better performance. Study after study has shown that the health of your personal relationships impacts your ability as a leader. Praising a partner in public and integrating them into your work life can improve effectiveness at work. Michael Hyatt, head of leadership development agency Full Focus, notes how opening up about your personal life can reinforce positivity, boost energy and even provide a model of empathy and reciprocity for those you lead.
Taking the spotlight off yourself sends a powerful message. On a LinkedIn post in early 2024, bakery founder/bestselling author Candace Nelson showed her appreciation for her other half. “Leaving the world of investment banking for cupcakes was an ego hit for me, but it was even harder for my MBA grad husband,” she wrote. “Suddenly, he found himself as my cupcake delivery driver. 🚗” Acknowledging support shows humility and reinforces that you haven’t achieved your leadership position without the help of others.
You model work-life balance for team members. Mentioning activities with loved ones is a great way to avoid looking like you’re all about work work work. This sends a message that your and your company emphasize balance and holistic wellness. While these concepts may seem “warm and fuzzy,” encouraging work-life balance has been shown to “promote productivity, reduce turnover, and improve employees’ mental and physical health,” while also boosting diversity, according to Harvard Business Review.
Practical tips for talking about love publicly
All these benefits aside, leaders should keep risks and pitfalls in mind when sharing publicly about significant others.
Before jumping in head first, clear your intentions with whomever you are thinking about acknowledging publicly. Some significant others prefer to remain in the background and avoid media and public scrutiny. For high-profile leaders, there may also be security concerns around highlighting family members.
Moderation and judiciousness is also essential when sharing. Although you don’t want to post on social media about every date night, once in a while probably won’t hurt—especially if it’s an anniversary or a relatable date, like a Valentine’s Day dinner and movie or, better yet, bowling excursion. But post about flying to Paris for brunch at your own peril.
Likewise, choose your forum carefully—what might be right on Instagram or X might not be proper for LinkedIn. Also, avoid overly sentimental, i.e. gooey, posts, and messages that seem more like lip service (“Happy Women’s Day – I love my wife and mom”) than heartfelt kudos. You don’t want to raise the ire of your followers for posting too much or seeming to come off as entitled or braggy.
Of course, you can avoid the subject all together. Many do. But if you feel the desire to discuss the thing that the Beatles say is all you need, then find a way to do it that’s sincere and thoughtful. Telling the world about the person who helped get you where you are today could pay off in unexpected ways.