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Book synthesis

How to grow in the face of adversity

When the going gets rough, as it inevitably does, what steps can you take to help yourself and others? After an unforeseen personal tragedy, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and co-author Adam Grant (of Give and Take fame) advocate for a more resilient approach to leadership, based on values of openness, authenticity, and humility.

In May 2015, Facebook’s celebrated Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg suddenly lost her 47-year-old husband and father of her two chil-dren, Dave Goldberg, to an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia. Following this shocking loss, Sandberg struggled in her work as the world’s highest profile second-in-command. Today, Sandberg says she has grown from this personal tragedy into a wiser, “bigger-picture manager”.

In Option B, co-written with close friend and thought leader Adam Grant, she shares her hard-won insights into resilience, outlining the steps you can take not only to bounce back but also “bounce for-ward” following setbacks, failures, and adversity (big or small). “No one would ever choose to grow this way,” Sandberg and Grant write. “But it happens – and we do.”

A new leadership style of asking for help when you need it

On 3 June 2015, one month after the death of her husband, Sandberg published a lengthy Facebook post about the loss of her husband, explaining how it’s important to her “to kick the elephant out of the room” with her teams and colleagues. “I have learned to ask for help – and I have learned how much help I need,” her public post reads.

“Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything.” Sandberg’s raw emotional honesty sets an important precedent. As one of the world’s most powerful executives, she sends the message that vulnerability in a leader isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness; if Sandberg can admit she needs help and still be one of the most highly valued, competent executives in the world, maybe other leaders can feel allowed to admit they need help from their teams and colleagues too. This message — that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, and is critical for resilience in a leader — is consistent with Sandberg’s long-time advocacy both within and outside Facebook for more authentic, collaborative leadership.

Building resilience like a muscle

Excerpt from Business Digest N°305, April 2020

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.