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Monday, December 6, 2021

6 Shades of Sheryl Sandberg – A Transformational Leader

Early Days 

Sheryl Sandberg is an example of how people can make a successful transition from Washington to Silicon Valley. Born on August 28, 1969, in Washington, to a Jewish family, she was the eldest among three children to an Ophthalmologist father and College teacher mother.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Harvard College in 1991. She later completed her MBA from Harvard Business school in 1995 with the highest distinction. Sandberg is also the recipient of the John H. Williams Prize for being a top graduating student in economics.


Many people achieve success in their professional careers as executives, and others have achieved fame beyond that. Sheryl Sandberg achieved both. She started her career with McKinsey and Company as a Management Consultant and worked there for a year.  Under Larry Summers, she worked as a senior official in the Treasury department. She later went on to become the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Later she served as the Vice president of Operations and Global Online Sales at Google before finally joining Facebook. 

In 2008, she left Google and joined Facebook as Chief Operating Officer. Later she was inducted into the Board of Directors in 2012. 

Role at Facebook 

Sandberg has a portfolio in Facebook, which can be termed as substantial. She always has a fluid and trusting relationship with Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Her appointment at Facebook itself was through an informal Christmas party meeting with Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was looking for a COO and thought Sheryl was a perfect fit for the COO role. 

Sheryl took over the major responsibilities of Facebook and allowed Zuckerberg to focus on things he liked, such as engineering. Zuckerberg gave her space and allowed her to be the public face of the company. 

Sandberg has also authored a book “Lean In “which was widely successful.  According to Zuckerberg, the book Lean In has played a positive role in the advancement of Facebook more than what Facebook did for Lean In.  Sandberg wears many hats and is not only a successful and popular COO, but she is also a rockstar in politics, business, and popular culture. 

Role Model Leader

Sandberg’s image is mesmerizing, and outsiders consider her as a role model who they can emulate. It is not her success at Facebook only but also how she manages to do many things efficiently and with grace. Her days comprise multiple meetings. She always carries a notebook in which she lists the discussion points and actionable. 

Sandberg is an excellent example of a transformational leader who celebrates her employee’s success and believes that appreciating employees encourages them to do better work.   Her working style involves setting high expectations, and people have known to put in extra effort on all the projects. 

Sandberg’s priority was to set the mobile advertising right. While Zuckerberg assigned the engineers to look into the technical side, Sandberg handled the business aspect of Facebook. She wanted to balance the user experience with the marketers’ needs while finalizing the ad format on Facebook with bi-weekly meetings with the product and ad executives. 

She shares stories of her conversations with the top executives of other organizations and gives insights into their expectations. And what the situation demands.  The Facebook IPO, which was poorly handled in 2012, and the share prices, which tanked at one point in time, have scaled up and regained their value thanks to Sandberg’s efforts. Facebook Shares is now at an all-time high of $329. Today mobile ads account for over 90% of Facebook revenue.  

Sandberg has been rewarded for her efforts and contributions. Her salary in 2019 was $ 27.10 million, which included cash and stock options. Her net worth as of May 2020 was $1.7 billion. 

An Author 

Sheryl Sandberg’s first book “Lean In” was a bestseller and widely appreciated. Since the book’s launch, more than a million copies have sold. The book was also instrumental in an international movement that brought feminism into the mainstream once again.  She is on first-name terms with other CEOs and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Micheal Bloomberg, and  Paul David Bono. 

She has chosen to be the number 2 at Facebook when she has many other lucrative opportunities, knowing very well that the chance to become the boss at Facebook is next to zero. She wrote another book, Option B, which was all about handling loss after the unexpected death of her husband. 

The Entrepreneur 

A few years back, Sandberg handled a tricky business situation when Facebook got into a partnership mess with PayPal.  Whenever there were disputes between the two teams, she would reach out personally to the CEO of eBay, John Donohue, who was the owner of PayPal. The differences were removed, and today one of the high ad spenders on Facebook is eBay.  

Sandberg focused on her book Lean In for a brief period, which made her an international sensation. This helped her to recruit women executives and engineers to Facebook.   Surprisingly, Sandberg’s team of five direct reports, only one is female. 

While many aspire to be like Sandberg, they all know that she cannot be cloned but only can be emulated. Facebook is a young company and growing. Sandberg has vowed to stay on till the next phase of the company.  The book Lean In has raised expectations on Sandberg’s post-Facebook Life.

Some interesting facts about Sheryl Sandberg

  • She was an Aerobics teacher at Harvard.
  • She helped in co-founding an on-campus group called Women in Economics and Government. 
  • Her thesis advisor at Harvard, Larry Summers, was later the Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. Sanders worked later in the same department. 
  • She is the first woman  director on the board of Facebook
  • She is the author of 2 bestselling books 
  • She owns a house in Menlo Park, California, which is worth over $11 million.

An Inspiration 

It is no secret that Sandberg is an inspiration for many. Her entrepreneurial skills have fuelled the growth of Facebook, and today it is the largest social media company globally. She has converted  Facebook from a start-up to what it is today and has an efficient team working under her. The success of Facebook is such that even after so many years and being a successful company today, it is a reference point in the start-up circuit today. 

Personally, Sheryl Sandberg is running the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.   Dave Goldberg was her husband who died in 2015, and presently she has been engaged since 2019 to partner Tom Bernthal.

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Kiara Dawson
Kiara Dawson comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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