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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

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An important book on leadership and courage, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is a fantastic memoir of one woman’s journey as a wife, mother and rising executive. The lessons in the book are told through stories from Sheryl’s experiences working at McKinsey & Company, The U.S. Treasury, Google and Facebook among others. As the current Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has a lot to teach about running multi-national organizations based around people. Success requires deep human intelligence and the ability to lead through inspiration.

Lean In Book Cover

Lean In places a great importance on gender roles and their significance. It is a known fact that more women graduate from college each year than men. However when compared to the amount of female executives in the workforce, there is a clear disparity. Far less women even carry the ambition to become executives in the first place. There are many reasons behind the lack of female executives (and to an extent, entrepreneurs) in our culture and these mostly stem from cultural norms. During important meetings and promotions Sandberg encourages women to sit at the table because it definitely is possible to balance family with a career.

Females usually have a different perspective from men when it comes to the workplace and oftentimes make decisions based on marriage or having a career, but not necessarily both. Many times it is the female holding herself back, while other times it is child rearing that becomes a priority.

Having a baby can be a huge challenge for women. Not every company supports maternity leave, nor are you guaranteed your reputation and position when you come back. On the bright side, managing through these experiences can maximize output. Having less time forces you to focus on what truly matters. Sandberg points out that women need to speak up at work so they can achieve a healthy balance of hours worked during critical stages of life. Pregnancy is a key time where many women make the decision to forgo their careers to raise a family, which is unfortunate because outside circumstances should make this decision easier not more difficult.

“Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every physical demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and a career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.” – Sheryl Sandberg

For one, it is not deemed sexy to be a female with power by society. Even other female peers may view her as bossy or authoritative. This runs counterintuitive to standards of female beauty today which is often portrayed as being generous and personable. For females there is a fine line between being a leader and a queen bee. In this regard, it makes more sense and requires less stress to be a caretaker instead. It is never really possible to accomplish everything you set out to do and there can be a sense of overwhelm from trying. That’s why setting attainable, sustainable goals is key to happiness.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead discusses mentorship in-depth and gives solid advice on how to approach an influencer (hint: it is always a reciprocal relationship). With more men mentoring and sponsoring women we could witness a revolution in female executives. When it comes to asking for feedback and also giving feedback to others, the benefit of being critically honest and direct is that problems get solved faster. Being brutally honest, both in your personality and in your actions can reap great rewards.

On a side note check out the Lean In Community and visit the Lean In Foundation.

Although as a male I do not possess many of the challenges Sheryl addresses, Lean In definitely gave me a clearer understanding of the psychological factors holding women back from succeeding in the workplace. Sometimes I do wish the book went more in-depth on operations strategies used at Google and Facebook as I’m sure there’s a lot to learn from operating gigantic Internet corporations. Nevertheless, gender issues are a large contributing factor to the leadership gap and should not be understated.

As the child of a single mother growing up who at one point took on two work shifts and even spent months away from home for work – multiple times, I can definitely relate to the issues Sheryl addresses in Lean In. There really are a myriad of factors a woman has to consider when it comes between having a family or extending her professional career. One thing remains certain as clearly stated by Sheryl Sandberg, “As more women lean in to their careers, more men need to lean in to their families.”

The Solution: Elect more qualified females for leadership positions and encourage both men and women to Lean In.

P.S. View Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk on ‘Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders’ here.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Tag: Recommended Books
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Year: 2013
ISBN: 0385349947

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl ...

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About the Book

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

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