Real-World Self-Leadership Case

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Real-World Self-Leadership Case

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Real-World Self-Leadership Case: “Leaning In” with Sheryl Sandberg

From self-observation and evaluation to positive mental imagery and practice, Sandberg was able to achieve a very high level of self-efficacy that empowered her to successfully build future successes atop of her past achievements. This self-efficacy and success has empowered her to serve as a leading voice that is inspiring other women to achieve similar accomplishments in their own lives and careers. In what ways is Sheryl Sandberg a self-leader? Specifically, how may self-leadership strategies have helped her to “lean in” during her career? How could self-leadership strategies help more women to “believe in themselves and their dreams”?

Real-World Self-Leadership Case


“Leaning In” with Sheryl Sandberg

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.

—Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, has learned throughout her life and career to be an effective self-leader. Ranked sixteenth on the 2015 Forbes list of “America’s Self-Made Women” and eighth on the 2015 Forbes list of “Power Women,” Sandberg says she wasn’t always confident in her ability to succeed: “I remember my first day at Facebook, driving to this new job, this hard job, and not being sure I could do it. I think about all the moments when I just didn’t believe in myself: every test I was just about to fail, every job I wasn’t sure I could do.” Sandberg says that after seeing many women, including herself, quietly “lean back” and miss opportunities, she started to see a pattern and wanted to start talking about it.

In 2013, Sandberg published her first book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, in which she addresses this pattern. Women, Sandberg notes, are getting more college degrees and more graduate degrees and are entering the workforce in record numbers, yet in industry after industry, women hold only 15 to 20 percent of the top jobs. “Women are held back by many things,” she explains. “We’re held back by bias, by lack of flexibility, by lack of opportunity, but we also hold ourselves back: we don’t sit at the table, we don’t raise our hand, we don’t let our voices be loud enough.” Sandberg says she wrote the book for women of all ages, ranging from young women thinking about their futures to women who are out of the workforce and thinking about reentering to women who are volunteers and thinking about taking on greater leadership responsibilities. “I wrote this book to encourage women to believe in themselves and their dreams and to help men do their part to form a more equal world by making sure that all of us have opportunities based on our passions and interests, not just based on our gender,” she states.

Sandberg wrote Lean In to help start conversations in workplaces and in schools, to encourage people to think differently about gender. Belinda Luscombe, writing in Time magazine, has observed that Sandberg is off to a good start: “It’s probably not an overstatement to say Sandberg is embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971.” Changing the outcomes for women in the workplace will likely entail changing how all people think and behave, and more effective self-leadership among women may be an important tool in this process.

Questions for Class Discussion

  1. In what ways is Sheryl Sandberg a self-leader? Specifically, how may self-leadership strategies have helped her to “lean in” during her career?
  2. How could self-leadership strategies help more women to “believe in themselves and their dreams”?

Sources/Additional Readings, accessed August 8, 2015.

Luscombe, Belinda. 2013. “Confidence Woman.” Time, March 7, 2013.

Sandberg, Sheryl, with Nell Scovell. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

“Sheryl Sandberg.” Forbes, accessed August 8, 2015.