I and 400 of my closest, personal friends (men and women) listened to Ms. Sandberg as she was interviewed by Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment, at a book signing in Beverly Hills last week. Having seen the trivial interrogations conducted by Nora O’Donnell (60 minutes) and Katie Couric (The Katie Show), it was refreshing to see a more complete presentation of Ms. Sandberg’s perspective (unedited by the Sisterhood).
Ms. Sandberg has roiled a fair bit of women’s feathers. NOT mine – I’m one of her biggest fans. Not necessarily because I agree 100% with her message (or the media interpretation of same), but because she is such a strong advocate of addressing tough issues, transparency, speaking up about important issues today, and because of her essential even-handedness. Having to answer to one son and one daughter kind of forces even-handedness. How do you advocate equality for women in the workforce while you ALSO must consider the impacts (real or perceived) on the other half of the species (men)?
“I think … that these issues run deep. This is serious stuff. This is about who we are as a people and our expectations for our lives and our partnerships and our families, and I think people are really passionate about this.” [Sheryl Sandberg]
Ms. Sandberg’s message appeals to the economist in me: scarce resources ought not to be squandered, under-utilized, or under-valued. Nor should those scarce resources under-perform compared to their potential.
“I want us to be able to choose -- unencumbered by gender choosing for us.” [Sheryl Sandberg]
As someone fascinated by good governance, I am also intrigued by her focus on transparency. Things that are kept hidden tend to fester. The bright lights of disclosure, evaluation, and deliberation tend to encourage intellectual assessment – and that can’t be all that bad compared to the alternative. Secret societies, cloistered deals, insider transactions and the like are not in the best interest either of a democratic society or a public share-owning form of capitalism.
“The will to lead” is Ms. Sandberg’s primary message. It is even more important than the statements that “shared work in the home (husbands doing laundry) could be more romantic.” It is much more important than the statement that “companies could provide proximate parking for expectant mothers.” And it’s a helluva lot more important than the powder-puff questions that circle “work-family balance.” Ms. Sandberg says it clearly:
"So there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance."
The will to lead is the courage to step out of the expectations and stereotypes in which our friends, families, companies, culture, and society insist upon wrapping all women. Ms. Sandberg and her co-research author, Nell Scovell, gathered an abundance of data about those stereotypes, behaviors, and expectations.
One example is that some people have challenged Ms. Sandberg’s decision to use a “ghost-writer.” As an author, myself, I commend Ms. Sandberg for her decision to collaborate with a strong complementary skill. This is exactly the type of decision women need to make…. IF they have the will to lead.
Throughout Ms. Sandberg’s interview last week, she easily selected from the reams of date contained in the book to support a point here or to emphasize a message there. Then she would conclude with a positive statement: “this is what we could do.” These are the options, choices, and alternatives to the same ol’ same ol’ that we have accepted for far too long.
This is what it looks like if we women choose, like Ms. Sandberg, to Lean In against a host of challenges and to exercise “the will to lead.”