When Sheryl Sandberg speaks, we listen. The chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org recently opened up to Lena Dunham, another inspiring woman, to talk about “Together We Can,” Sandberg’s latest initiative, which celebrates the power of women who support each other. Naturally, we couldn’t wait to see what happened when two of our favorite female figures got in the same room to swap career tips. Grab a pen and take note—these are the top three lessons we learned from their inspiring chat.
Dunham admits that one of her biggest challenges is resisting the desire to be liked, especially as a manager. “That’s huge for me—the sense that even as the boss, I want everyone to like me no matter what,” she said, before turning to Sandberg to ask how she deals with that fear.
“You can be the boss and still be terrified, still have the desire to make everyone comfortable. And it’s a strange divide. You’re in charge but still beholden to other people,” Sandberg says.
The COO admits it comes down to self-confidence. “I do still struggle with my self-confidence, whereas my male colleagues’ self-confidence never seems shaken by people disagreeing with them,” she says. “And I do always want to be liked, even when I know it is not possible for everyone to agree with me all of the time and I need to make hard decisions.”
“I’m excited about this campaign because we need to recognize and acknowledge how much women support each other,” says Sandberg. “Kerry Washington talks about the impact Shonda Rhimes has had on her career. You have spoken out about the supportive creative partnership you have with Jenni [Konner]. Me and [Facebook Vice President] Lori Goler have been together at Facebook for eight years. When you look at successful women, they have other women who have supported them, and they’ve gotten to where they are because of those women.”
While Sandberg’s latest campaign is all about supporting others, she points out that it’s important to do it for the right reason. “We expect more kindness from women, and we judge them more harshly. … We have to correct the biases women face. You shouldn’t feel obligated to support a woman because she is a woman, but because you believe in her ideas and capabilities. It’s the right thing to do, and it creates a work environment that is better for everyone.”
Is there a colleague you turn to for support? Tell us if it’s helped your career, and then shop Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg ($15) for more advice.