If I could invite five people to a dinner party, Sheryl would be one of those five. For anyone who doesn’t know her, she is the COO of Facebook. She is such a role model for men and women alike. I say that because most people hold her up as a role model for WOMEN but I think MEN really need to take heed and follow her. She is THE model for this era of leadership and business, while having a family and that is not a women’s issue, it is a society issue. She gave the commencement speech this year at HBS (full text and video here). I’ve posted my favorite parts below.
[Careers] are not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym. As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job, don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb.
As traditional structures are breaking down, leadership has to evolve as well. From hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding.
Your strength will not come from your place on some org chart, your strength will come from building trust and earning respect.
People rarely speak this clearly in the workforce or in life and as you get more senior, not only will people speak less clearly to you but they will overreact to the small things you say.
As you graduate today, ask yourself, how will you lead. Will you use simple and clear language? Will you seek out honesty? When you get honesty back, will you react with anger or with gratitude? As we strive to be more authentic in our communication, we should also strive to be more authentic in a broader sense. I talk a lot about bringing your whole self to work—something I believe in deeply.
Motivation comes from working on things we care about but it also comes from working with people we care about, and in order to care about someone, you have to know them. You have to know what they love and hate, what they feel, not just what they think. If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart as well as your mind. I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today’s world, with a real voice, an authentic voice, it makes even less sense. I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. And it’s been reported in the press that Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg’s shoulder, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.
But women at the top c-level jobs are stuck at 15 or 16 % and has not moved in a decade. Not even close to 50%. We need to acknowledge openly that gender remains an issue at the highest levels of leadership. The promise of equality is not equality. We need to start talking about this. We need to start talking about how women underestimate their abilities compared to men and for women, but not men, success and likeability are negatively correlated. That means that as a woman is more successful in your workplaces, she will be less liked. This means that women need a different form of management and mentorship, a different form of sponsorship and encouragement, and some protection, in some ways more than men.
There aren’t enough senior women out there to do it, so it falls upon the men who are graduating today just as much or more as the women, not just to talk about gender but to help these women succeed.
We will not close the leadership gap until we close the professional ambition gap. We need more women not just to sit at the table, but as president Obama said a few weeks ago at Barnard, to take their rightful seats at the head of the table.