Although “Sheryl Sandberg blames women” has become a popular media meme, Lean In seems to me to be a valiant attempt to turn what the author has learned into a clear-eyed guide for helping other women succeed at work. In addition, the self-awareness that informs her managerial style, at least as she describes it, exemplifies the practices that Schein and Pink both advocate and explore. She expresses humility and is not reluctant to assume a lower-status position if she has something to learn. She’s a skilled questioner who actively shows that she is listening so others will be comfortable opening up. She credits her success to recognizing that truth lies in the eye of the beholder and that statements of fact are therefore likely to put others on the defensive. She acknowledges that listening and being open were hard skills for her to learn and says she has to work at being “delicately honest.”
If we’re all salespeople now, Sandberg clearly possesses the passion for inquiry along with the attunement, buoyancy, and clarity required to move others to pursue a cause that has long been regarded as a tough sell.
- Sally Helgesen is a contributing editor of strategy+business. She is an author, speaker, and leadership development consultant whose most recent book is The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work (with Julie Johnson; Berrett-Koehler, 2010).