Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has gotten a lot of attention recently, both positive and negative, for her forthcoming book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, in which she calls for upwardly mobile women to form “Lean-In Circles” to inspire one another. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd: It’s “a new kind of club—a combo gabfest, Oprah session, and corporate pep talk.”
Assuming that Sandberg practices what she preaches, we were curious to know who populates her own lean-in circle, given that she’s one of the world’s richest, self-made female entrepreneurs. Since she hasn’t named any names, Bloomberg Businessweek took the liberty of assembling the likeliest candidates.
1. Emily White
Inspirational Accomplishment: She was employee No. 230 when she joined Google in 2001. She spent a few years in the Internet company’s sales and marketing team and then served as director of emerging business. She briefly worked under rising star Sandberg at Google, becoming her protégé until Sandberg left for Facebook. In 2010, Sandberg offered White a job as Facebook’s director of local. She accepted and has gone on to launch new Facebook features such as Deals, Check-ins, and Places.
Strategy for Success: Know Sheryl Sandberg.
2. Marne Levine
Inspirational Accomplishment: Levine came to Sandberg’s wedding in Carefree, Ariz., despite having a business school exam the next day. After the bride learned that Levine would need a private room with Internet access in order to download the exam, Sandberg added it to the weekend’s itinerary. “On the wedding calendar,” Levine says. “my test was listed as an event!” Levine went on to work with Sandberg at the U.S. Treasury Department and is currently Facebook’s vice president of global public policy.
Strategy for Success: Know Sheryl Sandberg well enough to be invited to her wedding.
3. Lori Goler
Inspirational Accomplishment: In March 2008, the Harvard Business School grad and five-year consumer-marketing employee at EBay called Sandberg, whom she knew socially. Goler asked her old friend to name her biggest business problem at Facebook, and Sandberg said recruiting. Goler admitted that she had no experience in that field, but Sandberg hired her anyway, naming her Facebook’s vice president of human resources. Because—come on—Goler did go to the trouble of calling.
Strategy for Success: Have Sheryl Sandberg’s phone number.
4. Sue Decker
Inspirational Accomplishment: While serving as chief financial officer at Yahoo!, Decker occasionally stayed at Sandberg’s house. During a visit to pick up one of her bags, she didn’t realize that her host was hiding in the basement with Mark Zuckerberg. The two were having a secret meeting to discuss Sandberg’s possible involvement with Facebook; according to Sandberg, she didn’t want her friend “to see me and Mark together.” Decker suspected nothing. In 2009, after it became apparent that she wasn’t being promoted to chief executive officer, she resigned from Yahoo. Today, Decker is an “Entrepreneur In Residence” at Harvard Business School.
Strategy for Success: Always check the basement for Sheryl Sandberg.
5. Pat Mitchell
Inspirational Accomplishment: In a 2011 profile of Sandberg for the New Yorker, Pat Mitchell, who had been invited to speak at Sandberg’s networking dinners, claimed the group “had their heads down and had no idea what it is like for other women outside their world.” It was the first and last time Mitchell—president and chief executive officer of the Paley Center for Media—publicly criticized Sandberg. These days, when Mitchell is mentioned in the same sentence as Sandberg, it’s usually to point out that she’s the one who invited Sandberg to speak at a TEDWomen conference in Washington, which resulted in a video that went viral online and made Sandberg a household name. Mitchell has since been named one of Newsweek‘s “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
Strategy for Success: Don’t diss Sheryl Sandberg. And if you do, don’t ever, ever do it again.
6. Joanna Coles
Inspirational Accomplishment: Coles was appointed editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in September. For the April edition, her second full issue at the helm, the magazine will devote 40 pages to Sandberg, who will edit and write for a career supplement about her “lean in” philosophy. The upcoming Cosmo issue has already been publicized in the New York Times, the New York Observer, the Daily Mail, and (at this moment) Bloomberg Businessweek.
Strategy for Success: Pay Sheryl Sandberg to write about Sheryl Sandberg.
7. Debbie Howitt Easton
Inspirational Accomplishment: At North Miami Beach High, she was one of seven BFFs whose ranks included an ambitious aerobic instructor in frosted blue eyeshadow named Sheryl Sandberg. The group was so close that it took out a full-page ad in the high school yearbook, modifying lyrics from a Kenny Rogers song (“Can’t imagine anything the seven of us can’t do.“) The gang continued to get together for occasional reunions, except Easton, who lost touch with her high school pals, but is still Facebook friends with most of them, including Sandberg. Today she works in commercial real estate in Massachusetts.
Strategy for Success: Stay in contact with high school friends. One of them might be Sheryl Sandberg.
8. Lady Gaga
Inspirational Accomplishment: attended a $35,800-per-person fundraiser for President Obama at Sandberg’s Atherton, Calif., home, where she “towered over everyone,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Not because of her outgoing personality, but because her high heels and sculpted bouffant gave her an additional six inches in height. She apparently was the tallest attendee, even beating out the six-foot-one president. It made Gaga the most newsworthy part of a fundraising story that would have otherwise gone to the headline-grabbing Sandberg.
Strategy for Success: Be taller than Sheryl Sandberg. And then pay $35,800 to go to Sandberg’s house.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website.)