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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Wondering 'Am I a Good Leader?'

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Ever wonder if you’re a good leader? If so, I have a simple three question test that will help you answer the question. I call it the Sheryl Sandberg test.

OK, I know that some of you are thinking “Is it really fair to compare myself to the COO of Facebook - the same woman who spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos the week her company did an IPO that took her net worth past $1.6 billion?” I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there aren’t many of us who can compete with Sandberg’s calendar and bank account. That said, there’s a lot that leaders of any station can learn from Sandberg.

When Sandberg left Google to join Facebook in 2008, the social networking site had 70 million users and no profit-making business model. At the end of 2011, Facebook had over 850 million users, revenue of over $3 billion and profits of just over $1 billion. It’s not too big a stretch to conclude that Sandberg has some leadership skills that might be worth emulating.

Over the past six months I’ve read a number of profiles on Sandberg and, based on what I’ve learned about her, have come up with three questions that can help determine if you’re a good leader:

  • Do I have followers?
  • Do I have a cause bigger than myself?
  • Do I get stuff done?

Here’s a bit on how Sandberg has answered those questions and what you can learn from the answers.

  • Do I have followers? Just after the Facebook IPO, The Financial Times ran a story on Sandberg that noted that it’s very common to hear ex-Googlers who are now at Facebook say, “I came because of Sheryl.” By all accounts, she’s not afraid to get personal. She’s warm and friendly while making sure things are accomplished. I like to say that most leadership behaviors can be broken down into two categories: relationship builders and results getters. Sandberg has game in both. That’s why she has followers. You can’t be a leader without them.
  • Do I have a cause bigger than myself? Sandberg has a had a lot of big jobs in big places – the Treasury Department, the World Bank, Google and Facebook. As her own career has flourished, she’s taken up the cause of encouraging women to believe that they can have a big career and a big life at the same time. As The New York Times reports, she mentors women at all levels, she speaks out on the topic whenever she has the opportunity and educates other companies on how to reach women. Here’s a prediction: Sandberg will have other big jobs before she’s done. Here’s another: She’ll continue to focus on her bigger cause of helping other women achieve. Great leaders leave a legacy. That’s easier to do when you’re passionate about something bigger than yourself.
  • Do I get stuff done? Like I said earlier, leadership behaviors can either be about relationships or results. Sandberg sounds like an ace on relationships and her results speak for themselves. She clearly knows how to inspire and organize people to get stuff done. The article by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker does a great job of explaining how she does it.

If you’ve been paying attention to Sheryl Sandberg, what’s your take? What do you admire about her approach to leadership? If you were putting together your own questions to determine if someone is a good leader, which ones would be on your list?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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