strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 85

B E S T B U S I N E S S B O O K S 2 0 13 / M A N A G E R I A L S E L F -H E L P women’s tendency to question their own skills often plays a role in limiting their opportunities. The Facebook executive freely admits that she has made every mistake she discusses and tells her own story with refreshing candor. For instance, when Larry The Facebook executive freely admits that she has made every mistake she discusses and tells her own story with refreshing candor. Summers, her mentor and thesis advisor at Harvard, recommended she apply for an international fellowship, she ignored the advice because she feared it would make it harder for her to find a husband. Later, working for Summers at the World Bank, she made up for this stra-tegic error by taking to heart his advice that she “bill like a boy.” Sandberg went on to serve her mentor as chief of staff when he was at the U.S. Treasury during the Clin-ton administration. There, she became intrigued by the tech industry’s rapid growth. She joined Google in 2001, quickly became its vice president for global online sales and operations, and jumped ship in 2008 to be-come Facebook’s chief operating officer. Sandberg demonstrates a gift for self-awareness that avoids both self-adulation and false modesty. She ad-mits she didn’t know how to read a spreadsheet when she arrived at the World Bank and describes humiliat-ing moments when she made poor decisions, received withering feedback, or even cried. Although she’s been criticized for these admissions by those who believe suc-cessful women must always inhabit the straitjacket of the unvaryingly positive role model, her honesty has stood her in good stead, both in her career and in the warm persona that animates the book. 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 salespeo-ple now, Sandberg clearly possesses the passion for inquiry along with the at-tunement, buoyancy, and clarity required to move others to pursue a cause that has long been regarded as a tough sell. + best books 2013 managerial self-help 85 Sally Helgesen sally@sallyhelgesen.com 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).

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