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Sometimes the deepest expression of love comes in the form of difficult-to-hear truths.

I once heard about a woman who liked to tell her entrepreneur husband, “You can do whatever you want. You’re the CEO.” She said this when he wrestled over a decision, when he wondered what others might think, and when he accepted more modest perks and benefits to try to save the company money.

On the surface, her words seemed extremely supportive. She was affirming her husband’s wisdom and decision-making in his role as leader of his company and encouraging him to use his authority.

But the longer I thought about her statement, the more it unsettled me. If her husband truly took her advice at face value and behaved accordingly, the consequences could be disastrous. He might stop taking others into account; he might not seek advice or input; he might not take the time to carefully consider his decisions or to learn from his mistakes. In the end, such an approach could actually harm his business, his character, and even their relationship.

Integrity is essential

As I’ve spent time in various business and start-up circles, I’ve found that being a supportive spouse of an executive or leader isn’t as simple as we might think. We want to show unconditional love toward and acceptance of our partners—but that’s not the same as affirming all of their behaviors, choices, and perspectives.

In the workplace, leaders already have a tendency to surround themselves with yes-men. One study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management stated that corporate leaders are “subjected to high levels of ingratiation in the form of flattery and opinion conformity.” As a consequence, this “can increase CEOs’ overconfidence …

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