Leaning in may lead you into leaning out and eventually falling if you export Sheryl Sandberg’s empowerment bible out of Corporate America.
Why does it touch me?
As an international executive coach and trainer in leadership and presentation skills, I have been guilty, in the past, of wanting to preach the same manifesto as Sheryl Sandberg. It’s a very good one, positive, action oriented, empowering women to assert themselves and speak with a powerful voice. I too believed that women needed to strengthen their confidence muscle, speak up, speak out and sit assertively at the males’ corporate board.
I very quickly discovered, thanks to the international executive MBA classes that I have been teaching at EM Lyon, as early as in the 90s, and then at Cranfield School of Management until now, that leadership, power, and communication took many different shades across the cultures, across the generations and depending also on individual preferences and personalities. I just could not teach the same way to Renault Samsung’s South Corean executives, or Chinese Gen Y women entrepreneurs, or L’Oréal’s Brazilian executives, just to name a few. Adding to that mix the corporate culture plus the context, the mapping of the stakeholders, you simply realize that no leadership size fits all!
Sheryl Sandberg’s lean in should be mandatory for young professionals, either men or women, at the first stage of the learning. With the mention: “Be careful, only applies in corporate america!”
Bodybuilding versus Zen Leadership.
It would be the equivalent of Body Building for Leadership. You practice and practice weight-lifting and your muscles become harder and bigger. You grow self-confidence and you have the satisfaction to fit in the anglo-saxon dominated management culture. Then, the best would be to “unlearn” these behaviors. To stop and watch the world around you. To travel, live abroad. To learn new languages and understand other people’s point of view. To challenge your stereotypes and assumptions. To learn to shift and adapt depending on the corporate culture you’re in, depending on the different national cultures, depending on the multiple generations you’re dealing with at work, depending on your own values and motivations at work. That would be the Yoga of Leadership. The Zen of Leadership and Communication.
What’s in it for YOU?
Change is hard. Adapting is tough. You can learn it on your own, via mistakes, trial and errors, but you seldom are given a second chance. You need to embrace leadership as a global mindset and get coaching from a global and open perspective.
Sheryl Sandberg’s role model typically fits the Achiever, the Persuader, the Pioneer. They are 9 other styles, which you can discover here. For Asia, the Moderator or the Maintainer would be much more appropriate for example.
“As multinationals continue to pivot towards the Asia-Pacific, with its growing middle class and hence growing number of highly educated women, Ms Sandberg’s manifesto needs a cultural makeover. Better to embrace her aspirational pitch, add some Chinese wisdom, a pinch of humility with a broader perspective, before spreading the gospel. If her goal is to impact half the world, she cannot talk the same as she does from her perch in Silicon Valley.” Jane Horan.
Jane Horan ‘s article on why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In may not resonate in other parts of the world, and especially not in Asia.
The American masculine ideal is not the Map of the world, but only a small part of it.
”...to take this manifesto global, we need to re-define leadership, re-examine work and re-evaluate careers. We need to think and act inclusively. This means including working women (not just the top tier) in the picture, and much more engagement of multicultural and multigenerational work places.” Jane Horan.
Thanks to Alison Maitland.
Alison Maitland wrote with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox the best seller Why Women Mean Business. She’s also the author of Future Work, how businesses can adapt and thrive in the new world of work. I found Jane Horan’s article thanks to her tweet.