Admitting you are wrong is never easy, but imagine being a well-regarded authority on the topic and doing it in a public setting. Sheryl Sandberg, a crusader in the women’s leadership movement and author of New York Times Bestseller Lean In, ‘fessed up to being wrong publicly on Facebook for the whole world to read.
Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly just over a year ago. Since then she’s been quite reflective about how that has changed her life. What Sandberg has learned provides valuable leadership lessons for all of us.
“In Lean In, I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally – and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this. Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”
To be a true leader you must evolve and change as life happens – this is exactly what Sandberg is doing. We don’t live in a vacuum nor do the organizations for which we work. Change happens and having the ability to recognize it and learn from it to become stronger is what makes good leaders even better.
Owning a Mistake
If you make mistake (or perhaps “misrepresent”) coming clean makes you more authentic. Taking accountability for that mistake shows others not only that you are human but that it’s okay to make a mistake. It also creates a work environment where others know that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world (after all the leader made one). It’s how you manage the situation after that distinguishes you.
“I did not quite get it. I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home.”
Sandberg has seen first-hand how losing her husband has altered both her home and work life. While she is the evangelist in leading women around the world to “lean in” by embracing challenges and risks in the workplace, the last year has taught her another valuable skill. It’s okay to accept support from others – or “lean on.” Sandberg knew she couldn’t do it all on her own – that’s why she stressed the importance of having a partner in her husband. She now has a deeper understanding of what it means and how important it is to have supportive family and friends in her life. Like Sandberg, other leaders can’t do it all and need to know that it’s okay to ask for help.
Sandberg’s Sharing Helps Others
We have been hearing that women don’t help each other enough in the workplace. Sandberg used Facebook to admit her mistake (and also provide thoughts for things that need to change). In the social media world in which we live we’re programmed to share our reactions to what we read. Reviewing some of the comments it’s even more evident that others who have gone through similar situations are benefiting from Sandberg’s experiences.
Thank you, Sheryl, for letting us know you are human and by doing so reminding us of the lesser-focused-on traits of a good leader.