The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg

Duff McDonald in Vanity Fair:

The ongoing three-way public-relations car wreck involving Washington, Facebook, and Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s powerful C.O.O., begs a question of America’s esteemed managerial class. How has someone with such sterling Establishment credentials—Harvard University, Harvard Business School, the Clinton administration—managed to find herself in such a pickle?

The answer won’t be found in the minutes of Facebook board meetings or in Sandberg’s best-selling books, Lean In and Option B, which cemented her position in the corporate firmament as a feminist heroine. Rather, it starts all the way back in 1977, when Sandberg was just eight years old and the U.S. economy was still recovering from the longest and deepest recession since the end of World War II. That’s the year that Harvard Business School professor Abraham Zaleznik wrote an article entitled, “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” in America’s most influential business journal, Harvard Business Review. For years, Zaleznik argued, the country had been over-managed and under-led. The article helped spawn the annual multi-billion-dollar exercise in nonsense known as the Leadership Industry, with Harvard as ground zero. The article gave Harvard Business School a new raison d’être in light of the fact that the product it had been selling for decades—managers—was suddenly no longer in vogue. Henceforth, it would be molding leaders.

More here.

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