Why Sheryl Sandberg is the Leader You Need to Listen to Right Now – Five Lessons From Facebook’s COO

Sheryl Sandberg

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Sheryl Sandberg is a massive driving force behind Facebook’s success – even compared to its founder. She has what it takes to be a great leader and succeed in the face of adversity.

Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, is worth around $1.6 billion today. She stands out as more than just a leader at Facebook – she’s also a pioneer of the feminist movement. Over the course of a decade, she has become one of the most famous people in Silicon Valley, and there’s a lot we can learn from her success.

Sheryl is a highly accomplished person. She helped grow a small startup into a social media giant, and steered the company through the disastrous Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook bounced back and continues to grow.

Before signing on at Facebook, Sandberg learned valuable skills from her time at Google and at the World Bank. She also learned a ton about business and engaging people as she worked for the Clinton administration. She loves responsibility and challenges, and is always on the lookout for more.

That’s how she ended up at Facebook, instead of becoming chief financial officer at the Google (which was far more successful at the time). She turned out to be the perfect manager for Facebook, which is now a behemoth in its own right. There’s a lot that you can learn from her, and she gladly shares her insights with women and men wanting to follow in her footsteps.

Business Lesson #1 – Self-Perception Plays a Key Role in Success

Leadership starts at the top, setting the tone and establishing the code of conduct and goals for the business and its employees… But leaders also need to listen to feedback.

If your company isn’t thriving as you want it to, you could be part of the problem. Are you making the right decisions? Do you trust your ideas enough? Are you decisive enough?

Confidence is important if you want to lead a company to success. Trusting your ideas and skills leads to better decisions.

However, truthful feedback is important too – and this can’t happen without engaging your employees. Talking to all your employees, regardless of departments or status, can provide a big-picture view of how you handle things. It can provide a boost of confidence and change how you perceive yourself (and your position).

Business Lesson #2 – Learn From Other People’s Challenges

Sheryl Sandberg often talks about the concept of pre-traumatic growth. In other words, learning from the mistakes and challenges of others. This is important advice to follow, since you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself just to learn from them.

Of course, everyone has ups and downs in life (especially in their careers), but being down doesn’t mean being out. People can come back from even highly traumatic experiences. Sandberg stresses the importance of learning from your own and others’ bad experiences. Pay attention to the struggles faced by those around you, and try to find lessons wherever they present themselves.

Whether for personal growth or leadership, it’s always important to be aware of yourself and what’s going on around you. A true leader needs experience, and you can gain that experience from events you least expect.

Business Lesson #3 – Create a Culture of Open Communication 

Even during Facebook’s meteoric growth, Sandberg was still in charge of job interviews, but noticed that she was slowing things down. She couldn’t handle the hiring process in an efficient manner by herself.

She was also the one who realized that, despite her flair for hiring the right people, she didn’t speak up when the process needed changing. Open lines of communication are essential for a company’s success, and Sandberg learned that lesson the hard way

A culture of open communication can prevent bottlenecks in production, hiring, and other departments. It’s important for your business, no matter how many employees you have.

People can’t be on the same page if they don’t openly discuss various challenges. This is especially true when multiple departments have to work together. Open communication means creating an environment that invites honest input – something that every leader should learn to accept.

Business Lesson # 4 – Have the Courage to Address Problems That Others Hide From

Sheryl Sandberg advocates for diversity and having more women in positions of power. She even did a TED Talk on the subject in December of 2010, addressing the elephant in the room at big tech companies.

This resulted in her book, Lean In, and after that, the group Lean In Circles – a movement that focuses on openly debating issues and bringing people together. Again, the aim is to create an open culture and overcome the communication gaps that exist between races and genders. 

The lesson here is that there are many valid opinions, and you can hear them all if you listen.

Great ideas for scaling your business could come from someone you’ve never paid attention to before, and that should be a scary thought for anyone who doesn’t frequently ask for feedback.

Business Lesson #5 – Embrace Failure (and Use It to Empower Yourself)

Embracing failure is not just about admitting mistakes. That’s only part of it… The real point of embracing failure is catching mistakes as they happen, not further down the road.

This is an essential principle for any leader that wants to focus on scalability. Figure out what’s wrong, then acknowledge it and fix the problem. You may even find that fixing a problem means moving in a completely different direction.

That’s all part of being a great leader and managing a range of scenarios. It’s not always pretty, and personalities can clash, but at the end of the day, sweeping mistakes under the rug means that no one learns anything. As history has shown time and time again, that can be the downfall of any business


A company is only as good as the people who work in it, and the same is true for the company’s leader. It’s the leader’s job to empower employees and get the best out of them. It’s a circle of trust, really, where everyone performs better once they’ve aired their problems out… And come together to resolve them.

Don’t be afraid to voice concerns and give others a voice in making big decisions. That’s the big-picture takeaway from these lessons, thanks to Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. 

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