Sandberg vs. Sinek

By Dayna Melvin

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and her book, Lean In, has had a profound effect on me. Simon Sinek is a well-known business author and speaker whose 45-minute video, Leaders Eat Last, has also had a profound effect on me. Comparing and contrasting their views on leadership has been an insightful exercise.

Ms. Sandberg’s book – along with her tenacity, intellect and accomplishments – have given her a platform to share her views with women around the world. And she has some valuable things to say. For example, she refers to a definition of leadership that I personally connect with: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts beyond your absence.” Her book is all about a woman’s right to and role in leadership in the corporate world.

That said, I don’t want to follow in her footsteps. Ms. Sandberg has made too many sacrifices along the way to earn, as she refers to it, “a seat at the table.”

There’s only so much of any of us to go around, so we have to choose who’s going to reap the most benefit. I want to have a seat at my family’s dinner table, not a seat in the corporate boardroom with a box of pizza. I want to “lean in” to my son’s bed at night when he’s finally ready to pour out his heart, not lean in to my laptop to respond to email that can wait until tomorrow. I believe I can use my leadership skills, my college degree and my professional designation to, first and foremost, benefit my family.

I’m not saying she (or any of us intelligent, driven women) shouldn’t work. I have maintained my professional career since my oldest son was 3 months old. But I also made a deliberate choice in the very beginning to structure my job around my family and not the other way around.

Fortunately, many of Ms. Sandberg’s principles translate well to a woman’s leadership role in her family. Are they lost on children who can’t even talk yet? Definitely not—our homes are actually the greatest test and display of our leadership. I gleaned from the book that Ms. Sandberg attempts to “lean in” to truly connect with her family a few times a week (and even feels guilty when she doesn’t), but she isn’t willing to make sacrifices in the corporate world to allow it to be her priority.

That’s not for me. Simon Sinek says, “Leaders give their time and energy, not their money. You have to give something you’ll never get back.” None of us can give our time and energy to everyone or we’ll end up stressed, anxious and ineffective. I know; I’ve tried. I resigned from trying to be Wonder Woman years ago. If we’re “leaning in” to something that means we’re “leaning away” from something else, and I’m convinced that my family deserves the greatest investment of my time energy, and leadership skills.

Mr. Sinek portrays a form of leadership that is selfless; it’s commonly called “servant leadership.” The servant leader isn’t concerned with getting a seat at the table. She makes sure everyone else is seated first and, in the end, is respected and revered for it. Women, by nature, are usually good at this; some are better than others. Ms. Sandberg would argue this costs us corporate leadership opportunities and that we should fight against this instinct. I disagree. I think it’s by perfect design and may even open the door to leadership opportunities.

Why? Because leadership is about trust. People want to follow someone they can trust. Leadership is earned, not clamored for. When people see that your words and actions are for the benefit of others more so than yourself, they are attracted to you. You will be a leader whether you purposed to or not.

We are all gifted with talents and abilities to use for the benefit of those around us. Leadership is not about a position or a title, but a role that demands your presence. This means your physical, mental and emotional presence, so make careful choices about where you spend it.

If you’re going to have children, choose to give them your best. This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work. But don’t let work or the desire for promotion consume you, because true leadership is a function of presence. Your children are going to look for leadership from someone. If you think you’re that talented and influential, don’t you want it to be you?

Dayna Melvin

As Finance Director, Dayna specializes in accounting for other people’s problems. Call Dayna when something feels off. She knows how to balance things.

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