Sheryl Kara Sandberg is one of the most powerful women in the world. She was born in 1969 in Washington, D.C. to a Jewish family, Adele and Joel Sandberg, and the oldest of the three children. She had always been the top students even before she went to college.
Sandberg enrolled at Harvard College In 1987 and graduated in 1991, where she received an A.B in Economics degree. She also was awarded the John H. Williams Prize for being the top graduating student in economics. At Harvard, she met her then-professor Larry Summers, who later became her mentor and thesis adviser. Sandberg also worked as Summers’ research assistant at the World Bank, where she helped with projects that were dealing with leprosy, AIDS, and blindness. She then attended the Harvard Business School and earned her M.B.A with the highest distinction later from there. After one year of short stay in McKinsey ; Company, she then once work worked for Larry Summers, who was then serving as the United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Sandberg became Chief of Staff to the then United States Secretary of the Treasury through her work ethic and determination throughout her whole life. She jointed right around the Asian financial crisis, so she assisted in driving the Treasury’s work towards forgiving the debt of developing countries from 1996 to 2001.
After the Republican won the office, Sandberg left the U.S. Treasury and went to Silicon Valley because she accepted an offer from the then-Google, which was only a 200-employee tech company at that time.
Around this time, her leadership style has formed. First thing after she was in that position, she began to invest in learning employees’ perspective on Google’s and her performance. This inspired honesty and loyalty in her employees because she showed that she truly wants a better performance for both herself and the company.
In late 2007, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, met Sandberg at a Christmas party. Zuckerberg did not do any formal search for a COO, but he believed that Sandberg would be “a perfect fit” for that role. In March 2008, Facebook announced hiring Sandberg from Google for the role of COO. At Facebook, she is in charge of all business operations such as sales, business development, human resources, marketing, public and private policy, and communications. Facebook wasn’t really profitable at that time so we can see Sandberg took another chance that looks risky. She had the task to generate revenue from the product. Like what she did at Google, Sandberg started to talking to employees from Facebook and ask them how they think Facebook was doing and what their perspective on things. She believed these people are most needed to listen because it was them build that billion dollar worth ‘cool-site’.
Sandberg didn’t limit her career to Facebook only. She also has a seat on the board of Starbucks, Women for Women International, V-Day, and Walt Disney Company because of her qualification on Google and Facebook.
Besides turning unicorn companies into a profitable conglomerate, as a woman,
Sandberg has another important task that she can not overlook, spending quality time with her family. She stated her philosophy throughout her book and her interviews. At one TED talk, she said, for her, managing time between family and work is definitely one of the most difficult tasks since she started her career. It’s extremely difficult to balance a career and a family and often times women are under pressure while they try to achieve the balance. That it explains why it’s so overwhelming for women to balance to work demands with ups and downs of everyday life. Sandberg strongly believes that working women use the excuse of the family to restrain them from pushing hard for work. In the culture where I come from, women should form their family and have children early and then get a steady job, where promotion is not necessarily promised. I found out this is also true in some western culture including the US.
This kind of thought made a lot of women waste their talent even though they might still in that workplace, but they had already lost the edge to compete. Fortunately for Sandberg, she managed to create that balance between her career and her family. This also strengthens her leadership ability to perform multitasking.
After looking into her life path, we are able to see there are multiple factors attributed to her success and her leadership style.
She knows how to build connections and utilize them whenever is needed. As a successful leader, you must have a network of connection. Sandberg does. The first thing I noticed is that she was raised in a well-connected family. And she did not let resources go wasted so she took advantage of the opportunities in front of her and started building her initial network. Having a mentor like Larry Summers is another factor attribute to her network. Sandberg learned how to work with powerful men early in her life in the male-dominated environment. Before she went off to the Tech world, Sandberg has already been able to build that network with quite a lot influential people early in her life that would help her future career. Indeed, right from the start, her career had strong political connections, which then later helped to mold her leadership role.
She has her own assessment of things. When she wanted to go to Silicon Valley, her mentor did not believe it was the right choice for her. She did not allow the negative feedback from someone was really important to her to interfere her decision about accepting Google’s offer. She remained positive and it turns out to be the best decision of her life. I believe there must be moments that she doubted her decision, but she followed her own path eventually. That’s probably why Mark Zuckerberg sees in her.
She knows how to do the systematic thinking and learning at a fast pace, which was another key to her success. The other benefit of working for the government is having a perfect understanding of the policies correctly and abid them which can be trained to think things more systematically. This quality is extremely useful in the business world. Later when she went through companies such as Facebook and Google, she was already equipped with systematic thinking and learning at a fast pace to handle everything and anything that is blocking her way.
She knows how important to earn trust and respect from her team. Another crucial thing to success is to have the support, trust, and respect from those around you. She gained all that by talking to her employees the moment she joined Google and Facebook. The conversation between her and employees made the latter to be acknowledged the impact they have made and could have made for the success of the company. She did not just have a better understanding of the employee and the company, she earned their trust and respect.
She knows when and how to prioritize any tasks came along. Because of the time she spent in D.C, she learned things at a very fast pace. An ability she gained during her time in Washington is that she learned how to prioritize tasks that have been assigned to her. Because there is always new priority being generated and leaders like her know how to segregate problems and prioritizing the tasks needs to be done in a very efficient manner.
She thinks ahead. She has the ability to always think ahead and this is also the key to the growth of these two companies. For example, Facebook Connect had around 7000 partners websites. This sounds like a lot back when she joined, but she had set a goal to reach 1 million.
Sandberg once said,” Going through fast Growth, you’re always behind. When you’re going through those really fast phases of growth, you’re even further behind. As soon as you catch up, you’re behind again.” This philosophy has always pushed her for more growth and expansion. It is no doubt that her mindset like this affected the companies in a positive way and turned Facebook into a multibillion-dollar worth company.
Lastly, I want to point out, years of ventures made her affluent of wealth and connections with influential people. But, she did not just care about herself or her company, she saw bigger problems in the workplace. She is an active supporter of workplace equality. It’s because of this, young women around the globe think her as a role model.