Yes, Sheryl Sandberg is Bossy!

April 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm 2 comments

sheryl_sandberg_book
Based on the limited interviews that I’ve listened to and the bits and pieces I’ve read in her book, I have enough information to conclude without any shred of doubt that Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, is indeed bossy. What qualifies me to make the statement? It is that, like most CEOs, an important aspect of my job is to identify great talent, nurture them and keep them happy.

I will first define how I and most people define bossy. Based on that definition, I think the average person and certainly 99.9% of people who have worked directly for Sheryl (including Mark Zuckerberg) will agree that she is bossy.

The question is not whether Sheryl Sandberg is bossy, but rather whether as a bossy female people react to her differently. The larger question that I’ve not seen asked in relation to Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead,” is whether or not society and corporate America react differently to non-whites, minorities, or females who are bossy than to white American men.

First, let’s define what is meant by bossy.

Most psychologists agree that by the time someone is 10 or 12 years old, their personality is set. I’ve heard some people say that it might even be between 0 and 1 year old. For my children, I believe that they had their personality set before they were born (so my own non-scientific estimate is that personality is set between egg-fertilization and 1 year old). Personality is probably a combination of genetics, or attributes that are innate, and the environment (nurture). If you asked Sheryl’s sibling based on the wedding toast recounted in the book, my guess would be that they would say, “Sheryl has always been bossy and she was born like that.”

Most assessments, or at least the ones I use in the corporate world, use four dimensions to define someone’s personality. These assessments include DISC profile, XT profile, Culture Index (www.cindexinc.com) or Myers-Briggs. I have a bias for using DISC in combination with Culture Index. The four dimensions are: 1) dominance, 2) social interaction (e.g., introversion versus extroversion), 3) time reactive/pace (for example whether someone is patient, or likes single versus multiple tasks) and 4) conformity (someone who likes rules, norms or authority).

Here is my composite sketch of Ms. Sandberg:

Sheryl has a high dominance personality. In terms of a personality trait, her dominance is likely to be in the 90th to 99th percentile. Here are adjectives that she would agree describe her:

1) Dominance
• Ambitious
• Strong willed
• Direct
• Determined
• Decisive
• Competitive
• Inquisitive
• Forceful
(I am tempted to put here egocentric/narcissistic, but it is not as negative as it sounds and I would have too much explaining to do.)

2) Social Interactions
• Confident
• Logical
• Convincing

3) Pace
• Inpatient
• Change oriented
• Frustrated by status quo

4) Conformity
• Own person
• Opinionated
• Independent
• Rigid
• Firm

How does someone with that kind of composite profile act on the job?

They are comfortable in taking initiatives, they expect and demand that things get done on their timeline (which some might perceive as unrealistic), they don’t have a problem questioning assumptions or why things are done a certain way, they are inquisitive (they like to look under the hood for the details; just because you say it is so or that everyone agrees with you is not enough), they are direct (they will tell it like it is)… Most people would consider someone with the composite profile I describe and the behaviors they manifest to be domineering or bossy.

Let’s be clear that the composite sketch above does not apply to everyone or to every female. You have bossy people who are male, female, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, from privileged or humble background. While you don’t have to be domineering or bossy to be in a leadership position or to be a good leader, there is no doubt in my mind that in corporate America leadership positions are dominated by those who have what we call a domineering or D personality. I personally believe that for an organization to succeed, it does need to have D personalities on board (you also want them on your sales team).

Sheryl seems to make the point that people react to women in leadership differently. My argument is that in reality, people react differently to women who are bossy or domineering. You are more likely to see women with D personality being referred to as a “b_tch” or an “arrogant b_tch.” It is unfair (and sad!!!) to create a stereotypical expectation for the female leader (for example as a motherly figure) compared to a male counterpart. I have heard in the workplace women express a preference to have a male boss compared to a female boss. Female leaders are equally less accepted (or perhaps more so) by other females.

Corporate America or society doesn’t just react negatively to women with D personalities (or bossy women); the same can be said of racial minorities. For example, a black male with a D personality would have to worry about not being seen as an “arrogant black man” or an “angry black man” in the workplace. I suspect that minorities (gender or ethnic based) in leadership positions who have a D personality probably have to censor themselves because of the lack of acceptance.

Yes, Ms. Sheryl Sandberg according to most peoples’ definitions, you are bossy. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I’m always on the lookout for people with your personality. People with your personality can be key to an organization’s success, whatever their gender or ethnicity. It is sad that our society in general, the workplace, corporate boards and leaders of organizations are not more welcoming of these personalities.

P.S. Sheryl if you read this post, I would be happy to work with you. It doesn’t matter who is the boss because we would be bossing each other just like you boss Mark Zuckenberg. I know that Facebook is probably leasing you for no more than 5 years. If you ever decide to go into politics, I’d be happy to run your campaign.

P.S.S. Mr. Zuckerberg, if you read this post you are indeed leasing someone like Sheryl. She will become bored after 5 years…unless you could create a vision and challenge beyond what Facebook is. I can help with that.

Entry filed under: Leadership, Thought Provoking. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Bottleneck happens at the top! (Part 1) Inequality can spur progress

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. LW  |  July 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    You misspelled her name. It’s Sheryl. Check your title and tag.

    Like

    Reply
    • 2. jorelien  |  December 17, 2013 at 6:36 am

      Thanks!

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,023 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 46,956 hits

My tweets

April 2013
M T W T F S S
« Jan   May »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

%d bloggers like this: