Do as I say, not as I do?

Lean-In-Page-8Part 4 in the Sandberg Saga comes from the perspective of a person I met the day I bought my copy of the book.  As I continue to share my thoughts on why Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In caused such an uproar in the media and the leadership community, this piece is based on that idea that we don’t like it when people come from a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.  At least one woman I met feels that this is an undercurrent in Sandberg’s book.

The day I bought my copy of her book, I remember the bookstore clerk asking me if I was “going to lean in.”  She then shared with me that she wasn’t impressed with Sandberg or the book.  When I pressed her for a reason, her response was that Sandberg seemed hypocritical. She felt that on one hand the book would tell us that we needed to do certain things, and then Sandberg would turn around and say that she hadn’t done them herself.

The clerk told me how she’d been a corporate leader but gave it up because it wasn’t worth it.   Now, she happily sold books at a small-town bookstore.  But it didn’t seem that Sandberg had to face the obstacles that she apparently did.

I thought the store clerk’s perspective was interesting.  After my first pass through LEAN IN, I wasn’t sure I agreed with the clerk.  After all, how many people fail at something, overcome the obstacles, only to live to try another day.  And besides that, the book offers some great advice that we should be considering if we want a corporate leadership career.  Then I decided to read a little deeper into Sheryl’s career history to try to see what that bookstore clerk saw.

Chapter 2:  August 2011, Forbes listed Sandberg as one of World’s Most Powerful Women… “Far from feeling powerful, I felt embarrassed and exposed.”

Chapter 3: Awarded for highest first-year academic record… “I only told my closest friend… and knew he would keep my secret.”

Chapter 7:  LinkedIn approached Sandberg about being CEO… “I was thirty-seven years old and wanted to have a second child… I had to pass because I didn’t think I could handle both a pregnancy and a new job.”

 Chapter 8:  On husbands needing to take more responsibility at home…“The division of labor felt uneven and strained our marriage.  We hired a nanny, but she couldn’t solve all our problems… After a few short months of parenthood, we had already fallen into traditional, lopsided gender roles.”

Chapter 9: Having it all is a myth… “I have remarkable resources – a husband who is a real partner, the ability to hire great people to assist me both in the office and at home, and a good measure of control over my schedule… a wonderful sister who lives close by.”

Okay, I said to myself, I can see how someone who had obviously had a bad experience with corporate leadership, can find some stuff in Sandberg’s book that could be defined as hypocritical.  But even as I write this post, I can’t help but think it’s the honest experience of a successful woman who is revealing her fears and failures as a regular human.  Well, maybe not a totally regular human being since she’s described as having an “extremely high IQ and EQ.”  Bottom line… Sheryl is sharing what she learned from her mistakes along the way.  Seems to me, she’s learned a lot!

But that doesn’t stop us from feeling betrayed.  After all, Sandberg’s greatest mentor was in the middle of a media-fire-storm himself when some of his comments were apparently taken out of context.  After all, how does a man who Sandberg credits as being instrumental in her career, then turn around and say that women aren’t as smart as men?  

We simply don’t like it when people say one thing and do another.  And as mere mortals, we react.

In the Sandberg Saga, many have reacted negatively.




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