A wife’s role can be crucial in business and in leadership – here’s why

22 October 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It doesn’t always take a power-packed top-notch career woman to make a career work; for the men in higher positions, be it in political leadership or corporate leadership, increasingly the role of their spouse is becoming relevant towards reinforcing the popularity and the success of leadership.

Take the case of Michelle Obama – Mrs Obama is not only a successful lawyer in her own right but she is also hailed as a style icon and a personality whose influence stretches through a multi-faceted portfolio. She has directly and indirectly had a considerable influence on President Obama’s success throughout the years. One step further from the Obamas is Hillary Clinton who was once a First Lady and is now once again a Presidential hopeful in the US – undoubtedly, her legacy stems a lot from the work she undertook and the role she played as Bill Clinton’s wife during the Clinton administration era. 

The wife of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, currently on a state visit to the UK, has been identified and admired in the global media as a style icon and a 21st century First Lady of China. First Lady Peng Liyuan, fondly known in China as Mama Peng, was a famous singer in China before she married her husband. Hers is a story of courage and determination that saw her reach stardom as a soprano; her sense of style and elegance has won her many fans in China and the world. She stood beside her husband in London, attending all the state functions alongside Royalty with perfect finesse and aplomb. China certainly must have been proud of her.

George Clooney’s wife Amal is a talented lawyer in her own right and has appeared for many high profile cases throughout the world but many believe that being Mrs. Clooney puts her in the lime light. The power couple supports many issues together and are said to complement each other in their respective careers.

Hollywood actress Salma Hayek is not only a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador but also married to fashion’s leading tycoon, Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR, whose retail empire owns some of the world’s biggest brands such as Gucci and Puma. 

Priscilla Chan, wife of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced her pregnancy – after multiple miscarriages – on Facebook and was immediately met with responses from other women who have suffered the same fate. The Zuckerbergs have been hailed for their efforts at raising awareness on miscarriage and has made strong statements online, reaching out to many out there. 


Challenge famous wives face 
No story on famous wives would be complete without the Royal women – Princess Diana and Kate Middleton both married princes, becoming not only famous in their own right but also in bringing the Royalty through to new generations with equal aplomb and style. Kate may not have replaced Diana as the Princess of Hearts in total but the glamorous mother of two is recognized as not only a style icon but also as the ideal wife to a prince of the next generation.

In India, it was the wife of Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia, of Italian descent, who chose to wear the sari and lead her party in her adopted country – she alone kept the Gandhi dynasty standing during the most turbulent times. 

Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gowrie is often seen as the wind beneath the famous Bollywood actor’s sails. She remains a classy and a stylish presence by his side, no second to any of his elegant leading ladies. 

Celebrity status aside, women who marry famous men in leadership have a role they must play, whether they like it or not. Some may find it a challenge, to be on a pedestal of sorts all the time but others seem to enjoy it, even look forward to making a career for themselves in it. As history shows, many such women went on to build careers of their own following the demise of their husbands, particularly in the Asian world of politics.

For the women who have had a career and a high profile before marriage, it is easy to extend their public status. They are also easily able to fit in the laurels because they have already tasted success. But for those who may have acquired celebrity status through marriage, the story can be different. It may not always be the fairy tale it seems to be.

For the likes of Jackie Onasis, the much admired wife of John F. Kennedy whose style revolution was as sassy as the swinging sixties, it was a challenging role – she had to put up with his infidelities and it was not always easy to put on a brave front. Yet others have dealt with similar circumstances, sometimes not able to go through the show successfully.

As they say, there is always a woman behind every successful man – sometimes, taking it further, one may even assume that in the case of certain successful men, it was the women who steered them in the right direction, encouraged and empowered their quest towards leadership.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)
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