What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
At 44, Sheryl Sandberg is at home in the heights of American power: She has her Harvard MBA, she was chief of staff for the secretary of treasury, she was a VP at Google, and she’s been the chief operating officer at Facebook since 2008.
In Lean In, she explains how women can take charge of their own careers and push forward at a time when gender bias is more alive that we would like to admit.
She offers insights to reflect on:
1. The importance to find an equal partner. Women should ask their partners to do at least half the parenting.
When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.
2. Men still run the world.
The gender stereotypes introduced in childhood are reinforced throughout our lives and become self-fulfilling prophesies. Most leadership positions are held by men, so women don’t expect to achieve them, and that becomes one of the reasons they don’t.
Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that- and I’ll learn by doing it.’
Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.
3. She makes a strong contrarian point about mentors.
I realized that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. We all grew up on the fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after. Once again, we are teaching women to be too dependent on others.
4. She argues convincingly that internal obstacles hold women back.
She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.
5. In the future, she says, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.
Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. (Harvard Business School definition of leadership)
Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.
Complement these insights on leadership with From storytelling to storylistening.