Last Friday, on the final day of #medtechweek, I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with Sheryl Sandberg in London to represent Dublin’s Medtech Lean In Circle. A core group of circle leaders from across Europe had the opportunity to meet with Sheryl before her fireside chat at the British Library hosted by Nuala Murphy of Lean In Ireland, to discuss her new book on resilience, Option B.
My key takehomes about leadership from my time with Sheryl are:
1. “Be brave, be real”
Most people who have heard of Sheryl Sandberg are aware of her impressive career trajectory from chief of staff at the US Department of the Treasury to her current role as COO of Facebook but what I found most impressive about Sheryl in person was her authenticity and her generosity of spirit. As Adam Grant would say, she is a giver. As we waited in the room to meet Sheryl, her staff told us how excited she was to meet us and learn more about our circles. When she arrived, she quickly gathered us in a circle and wanted an introduction to each of us to learn more about our circles and to hear how she and her team could help. Her passion for the Lean In movement was real, as was her desire to work together to continue to improve and build on the Lean In offering.
In speaking with her team, the word most used to describe Sheryl was “brave”. Sheryl’s bravery in all aspects of her life, whether it was her move from Google to the then start up, Facebook, in 2008, to starting the Lean In movement when she saw a lack of women in leadership, is a lesson to us all. She is a true example of being the change you want to see in the world.
2. “Post Traumatic Growth”
We have all heard of post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, but few have heard of post traumatic growth, despite the fact that just 15% of people are affected by PTSD and over 50% of people who experience a traumatic event report at least one positive change.
Not all careers are linear and we all experience setbacks in life. The important lesson here is that we can not just learn from these experiences but grow from them too.
Sheryl also spoke about pre traumatic growth, where we can learn from other people’s challenges. For example, since suddenly losing her husband, David Goldberg, two years ago, she now celebrates every birthday, never jokes about being older than her boss, Mark Zuckerberg and encourages her friends to also celebrate getting older!
3. “Lean In”
I founded our Lean In Circle over 3 year ago after reading Sheryl’s Lean In book on a flight home and accepting her call to action to start a circle of like-minded women. As a female founder at the time, I missed being able to bounce ideas off others and being part of a high-performance team, so I reached out to the best and brightest women I knew in Medtech across a range of disciplines, including venture capital, commercial and regulatory, to come together monthly for sharing of best practice and support. We are still going strong over three years later and have shared many successes, from moving roles and selling businesses to sharing important life events, such as new babies or family bereavements.
We need peer-to-peer structures, such as Lean In Circles, to support and encourage more women into our sector, as there are not enough senior female leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). There are over 100,000 people working in STEM in Ireland, 25% of whom are women. These are high-value, high-impact roles, with a projected growth of 8% to 2025, according to the European Commission. You cannot be what you cannot see and we must be ambassadors and mentors for the next generation of leaders in our field.
The data shows that initiatives focused on female leadership work. For example, here in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland’s female entrepreneurship initiative, which started in 2011, led by Sarita Johnston, has resulted in high potential start ups (HPSUs) led by women increasing from 7% in 2011 to 20% in 2016.
Lean In Circles also result in positive outcomes for women of all ages and across all sectors. There are now over 33,000 circles in 150 countries and 85% of members credit their circle with a positive change in their life.
Be brave, grow from setbacks and join the Lean In Circles community at leanin.org/circles