Posts filed under ‘Thought Provoking’

Yes, Sheryl Sandberg is Bossy!

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 ( 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.

April 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm 2 comments

Message to the GOP: How You Can Broaden Your Tent

ClintEastwoodGOP_empty chair

Lately, it seems that the GOP has been doing some soul searching. Gov. Jindal of Louisiana, a few days ago, said the party needs to stop being the “stupid” party. John Boehner, the speaker of the house, said the president wanted to annihilate the GOP.

Mr. Boehner, with all due respect the GOP has been annihilating itself; you would think the party did not care about winning. I think the party is destroying itself so badly that it’s no longer a fair fight. Although I’m a registered Democrat because I believe in good competition, I felt that I might help by giving you a grand strategy that will appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.
Well, the strategy is simple. The GOP has the edge when it comes to economic policy. Consistently, when the American public is asked who they trust to create jobs, they choose the GOP. The GOP is also more trusted in general when it comes to protecting the nation, but I don’t think it’s a strong card now (I’ll come back to that later).

The one and only message, a unifying cry, for the GOP should be: “We are the party of opportunity.” Senator Cruz suggested that “Every Republican should have tattooed on their arm to read in every speech: growth and opportunity.” I would go further and Keep It Simple Stupid. I am talking to you, “stupid” party: Reduce the message to one word “opportunity.”

Imagine this, the Republican message could be summed up as “Democrats are good guys, but they have the wrong policies. They believe in sending some crumbs from the rich to those who are less fortunate, while we want to give everyone in America the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Whether it is to become a small business owner, buy a house, give your kids an education to become a doctor, lawyer or the next Barack Obama, we want to create an environment where you can create that opportunity for yourself.”

Here is how this would translate in policies in four areas:

1) Economic Opportunity
You shouldn’t be afraid to back away from workfare instead of welfare policies. By the way, many in the black community and other minority groups don’t believe in welfare policies either. Do go to the inner cities to talk about policies such as tax credit or public-private partnerships to encourage entrepreneurship and investment that will lead to job creations. If we can provide assistance to other countries to help in economic development, shouldn’t we do the same for our own troubled areas that in some cases resemble third world countries?

2) Safety
Have you heard a credible proposal from the democrats on how they will improve safety in the inner cities? I haven’t. Don’t you think that Black and Latino parents in areas with high crimes care as much about the safety of their kids as parents in the suburbs? This is not just talking about how many young Black kids are being killed by guns in Chicago to score political points, but about providing solutions. After all, every American deserves to live in a safe environment where they have the opportunity to pursue the right endowed by their Creator to pursue happiness. (If you don’t believe me that you can win on the safety issue, talk to Brett Schundler who was the Republican mayor of Jersey City from 1992 to 2001).

3) Education
Education is the most common path to climbing the social ladder and achieving the American dream. There is no talking about opportunity without addressing giving every K-12 student a decent enough education to go to college and the ability to afford college if their parents can’t afford it. This means voting against Pell grants to deserving college students is a bad idea. Yes, I do agree that colleges will increase tuition artificially if they know Uncle Sam will foot the bill. But, there are creative ways to address this, such as by making schools where tuitions rise much faster than the cost of inflation ineligible for any federal funds (including research grants).

4) Immigration
Finally, you have to open the door of opportunity to those young illegal immigrants who love America and, through no faults of their own, find themselves in legal limbo. No rhetoric on amnesty will do. It will only continue to make the GOP seen as mean and insensitive.

On the defense or protecting America issue, don’t bother. The killing of Osama Bin Laden guarantees that Democrats own this issue so long as President Barack Obama is in power. There is no point in attacking the president on the left as Mitt did in the last election. Not only is it shameless, but it will not work. Most Americans don’t have any problems in using drones to go after terrorists wherever they may be and don’t want to destroy a country through war and then get in the business of nation building.

What about abortions, guns or gay marriage? Stay on message. If you want to be the party of opportunity, you are the party for all Americans. Everyone will understand that you don’t have time to focus on these divisive issues. (You could blame the Democrats for using them).

Well, my GOP friends, I’ve tried my best to even the playing field, but I’m not holding my breath that you will follow my advice. If you do become the party of opportunity, count me in. I arrived in the US as a young Haitian immigrant whose mother was earning $3.35 per hour (minimum wage) in 1989. America has given me the opportunity to create a better life for myself by getting a world class education and then founding a business that made it twice to the Inc 500 of fastest growing companies in the US. I want to leave to the next generation that same America where opportunity still exists for those who are part of the 47%.

January 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

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