Sheryl Sandberg On Leadership: “It Is Better To Inspire Than Direct”


“Second, feedback is a gift. When I started at Facebook, I knew that my job success would entirely depend upon my relationship with Mark. So before I accepted the job, I asked him for a commitment, that we would sit down every Friday and he would give me feedback so that any issues he had would be aired very quickly and discussed. He not only said yes right away, he said, ‘Let’s make it reciprocal. I’ll give you feedback, and you give me feedback.’ For years, every Friday afternoon we sat down and told each other what we thought we could have done better. As the years went by, sharing honest reactions became part of our relationship. Now we do it in real time. We don’t have to wait for Friday afternoons.

“Getting feedback from your boss is one thing. But it is just as important to get feedback from the people who work for you. It’s not easy to do because employees are often eager to please those above them and no one wants to question or criticize their higher ups. One of my favorite examples comes from Wall Street. In 1990, Rob Rubin became CEO of Goldman Sachs. At the end of his first week on the job, he looked at the books and they had a lot of gold. He said why do we own so much gold. And someone said, ‘Well that was you, sir. He said, ‘Me?’ Apparently, the day before he was walking around the trading floor and said to someone, ‘Gold looks interesting.’ That got translated as Rubin likes gold, and someone spent hundreds of millions of dollars to please the new boss.


“Third, nothing is someone else’s problem. When I was in business school, I took a class that said he more senior you got, the more dependent you were on other people. I thought my professors were wrong. They were right. I am dependent on my sales team, not the other way around. As a leader, my performance is not just want I can do. But it’s what my whole team at Facebook does.

“Companies in every country have to operate in ways that are right for their cultures, but I think there are some leadership principles which are universal. And the most important: It is better to inspire than direct. Yes, people will do what their bosses say in most organizations, but great leaders don’t just want compliance. We want to elicit genuine enthusiasm, complete trust and real dedication. They just don’t win the minds of their teams. They win their hearts. If the people who work for you one day believe in you and believe in your mission, they will not just do their daily tasks well but they will do it with true passion.

“No one won more hearts than my beloved husband Dave who passed away suddenly two months ago. Dave was a really inspiring leader. He was kind and generous and thoughtful. He raised the performance of everyone around him. He did it as the CEO of SurveyMonkey, a great company he helped build. And he did it for me and our children.

“Harvard Business School Professor Francis Frei has said that leadership is making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts until your absence. Like Dave, You can do this not just for yourself but for other people.


“Fourth, lean in. The Chinese proverb holds that women hold up half the sky. Women have a special role and it was wonderful to see that half of your speakers today were women.”


Page 2 of 2