How To Be a Boss

2 January 2019

You’ve probably heard the term “lean in” – it has definitely achieved buzzword status. But do you know what it means and where it originated from?

Taken from the 2013 book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, written by Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, it’s a clarion call encouraging women to be more assertive in the workplace and seize opportunities to propel their careers forward.

Since the global success of the book and what’s come to be known as the “Lean In” movement, Sandberg has become the prototype for those aspiring to nab top leadership positions. Here are some helpful lessons from Sandberg on how to be a boss.

‘Believe in your self-worth’

Leaders are decisive, not hesitant. And how do they become that way? By believing in themselves and their abilities – how you carry yourself influences how people perceive you and your leadership capabilities.

Even Sandberg says it’s important to “fake it til you make it”. As she describes it, “Feeling confident – or pretending that you feel confident – is necessary to reach for opportunities.

It’s a cliche, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” So carpe diem!

‘Leadership is not bullying and leadership is not aggression’

Being an activist and philanthropist, Sandberg believes in using empathy to lead. In the same quote, she continues, “Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good, that you can make the world a better place.”

Good leaders will foster an open line of honest communication between themselves and their team, which can help solve current problems and avert future ones.

In the same vein, leading with care and respect creates a positive working culture where people are happy to contribute their time and effort.

‘The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have’

a pair of black spectacles placed on an open book
Many of the world’s most revered leaders are avid readers. Photo by Sincerely Media

To be a good leader, you don’t have to know everything or have all the answers – but you must be willing to find the solution if you don’t.

According to Sandberg, “You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around.” This means that you must think on your feet and adapt the situation to suit your needs.

This ties back to another quality that many agree well-known top bosses have – a love for lifelong learning. Instilling a growth mindset and an openness to learn will give you the versatility you need to overcome any challenges and spot new opportunities.

‘Build resilience in yourselves’

Throughout our lives, we’ll inevitably encounter disappointments and failures. This is why Sandberg believes it’s important to build up your resilience: “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it.”

As a boss, your team will look to you to guide them through a storm, so your ability to recover from a setback not only affects you, but your team members as well.

Some tips on how to build resilience include keeping a positive outlook, maintaining close relationships with family and friends, and practicing self-care.

‘Nobody can succeed on their own’

two ladies scrolling through a laptop during a meeting
To be most useful, knowledge and wisdom need to be passed on. Photo by Kobu Agency

In her interviews and speeches, Sandberg often gives credit to the advice and support of her mentors and collaborators in helping her get to where she is today. This is why she also encourages leaders to reach out and help lift others up.

In the same way that you received guidance from your seniors and superiors, pass the torch forward and give your subordinates the help they need to rise up.

Because to Sandberg, leadership isn’t just about managing others – it’s about “making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence”.

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