Social Inflexion Point

Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook) gave the commencement speech at Harvard’s Business School Graduation cerimonies this May. It’s a must watch, period!  If you are under 35 it’s a doubly must watch.

Sheryl doesn’t actually use the words social inflexion point, but her entire speech is warning of one. I have argued and continue to argue our society is at a social inflexion point and how we work, leadership and most critically the definition of opportunity are changing.

More so than ever before the cost of not embracing these changes is catastrophic.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

“It used to be that in order to reach more people than you could talk to in a day, you had to be rich and famous and powerful, be a celebrity, a politician, a CEO, but that’s not true today. Now ordinary people have voice, not just those of us lucky to go to HBS, but anyone with access to Facebook, Twitter, a mobile phone.”

“As the world becomes more connected and less hierarchical, traditional career paths are shifting as well.”


“Lori (a friend) has a great metaphor for careers. She says they’re not a ladder; they’re a jungle gym. As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job, don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb.”


“As traditional structures are breaking down, leadership has to evolve as well. From hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding. You’ve been trained by this great institution not just to be part of these trends but to lead. As you lead in this new world, you will not be able to rely on who you are or the degree you hold. You’ll have to rely on what you know. Your strength will not come from your place on some org chart, your strength will come from building trust and earning respect. You’re going to need talent, skill, and imagination and vision, but more than anything else, you’re going to need the ability to communicate authentically, to speak so that you inspire the people around you and to listen so that you continue to learn each and every day on the job.”

If you have more than 5 years left in your career, this video is a must. You can also read her entire speech here.


What do you think? Is she right?

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