Articles / Review / San Francisco

Read It: ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’

When Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ launched I was skeptical. I figured it was a book telling women to approach their careers more aggressively and push to the top because ‘we can so we should.’  My argument  lingered around the idea that not all people – men or women – were created to be leaders of companies, or even work for companies, so why should anyone feel forced or guilt into positions they don’t desire. After having opinions on a book I knew little about, I decided to stop being an idiot and read it. Overall, I really liked it. I appreciated her insights, research and authenticity. Sandberg isn’t telling women who to be, she is simply telling women to lean into who they want to be and not let stereotypes, arrogant/ignorant people, or unjustified norms hold us back. She addresses that the book will mean different things to different people, for me it was validation to be authentic in pursuing the path I most desire and to silent the internal and external voices that may be holding me back. Below are the nuggets that will stick with me whether I ever pick up the book again (not necessarily in any order) and I do encourage you to read the book as there more content that may resonate more with you than I. I also highly encourage men to read the book, you will get something out of it.

Pregnancy Parking

While pregnant and working at Google, Sandberg had a difficult time getting to her car as she rushed out to client meetings. The benefit of priority pregnancy parking dawned on her and Google implemented close parking for pregnant women. It is a small notion, but I love this example because it shows how women think differently than men and how important it is for our voices to be present. From design to process to communication, women are able to provide perspectives that just aren’t innate to men. Really, all people have a voice and a perspective of value, so this isn’t just a woman on a soapbox thing, but it does need to be recognized that at any table, a woman is likely to have a thought that would never even cross a man’s mind.

Sit at the Table
When entering a meeting don’t sit in the corner or give up your seat. You genuinely have a voice and a perspective to be heard (as stated above), so sit at the table and don’t wait to be invited or called on. I don’t perceive this as speaking to make noise, rather as a push to actively insert yourself with authenticity and thoughtfulness. Once your presence becomes about proving a point or feeding pride, delivery and reception of your participation changes.
Impostor Syndrome
Ever had the thought that eventually people will realize don’t know what you are talking about and you will be exposed? I have had enough conversations with friends to realize everyone experiences this to a varying degree. When you read Sheryl Sandberg has struggled with it, you realize there will probably never fully be that ‘I have arrived’ feeling and you are free to say thanks, but no thanks next time that impostor thought pops in your head. I’ve pasted a link to a good article in the ‘Resources’ below about this with a deeper psychological deep dive.
Professional Jungle Gym
I love this! The metaphor originated from Pattie Sellers (Fortune/Time Inc) and describes a career path that is more like a jungle gym than a ladder. Movement in all directions broadens ones experience base and also allows for creativity in your career. (I like to think of it as an application of value based decision making too).  My intended career path when I graduated from college was to take positions that would all roll into becoming a marketing manager. I didn’t want to climb a ‘marketing-title’ ladder, but rather work in different marketing disciples so I would have hands on experience when I did become a marketing manager. I was always a little weary that my resume needed to read more like a ladder though.
Leaving Before You Leave
Sandberg warns of limiting your path before the path can even happen, particularly with making decisions regarding starting a family. One story she shares is about a young colleague’s concern with balancing kids and a career before she was even in a relationship. Pursue your desires first and decisions can be made along the way. We are way more capable to handle forks in the road than we sometimes believe.
What Would I Do if I Wasn’t Afraid?
Writing ‘Lean In’ was one thing Sandberg would do if she wasn’t afraid. Fear sucks – again, we are way more capable people than we sometimes believe.
Partner Support
At one point in the book Sandberg challenges men to lean into the kitchen table. She directly talks about the importance of men taking on responsibilities at home and brings light to the importance of women finding a partner that is going to not only support them in their goals, but also engage in the process and take on sacrifices so they can be fulfilled.

Again, I encourage you to read to the book and chew on what you do and don’t agree with. You can’t go wrong with the overall concept of leaning into your life.

Resources:

Link to a discussion guide for ‘Lean In.’ It covers the chapters of the book so it will give you an idea of the content in the book. Even just reading these questions will provoke some thoughts.

‘Sheryl Sandberg’s Why we have too few women leaders’ TED Talk

Impostor Syndrome Article

Pattie Sellers – Jungle Gym Analogy

Article: Uncertainty, Innovation, and the Alchemy of Fear

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