Lean In

UrlI read Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, Work, Women and the Will to Lead this week.  I am not a huge fan of the saying lean in.  To me what she is basically saying is don't sell yourself short. 

There are a lot of thoughts rumbling around my brain after reading the book.  This book is a manifesto for anyone, man or woman.  Sandberg has done a great job at providing advice paired with stories from own personal experiences.  The book is thoughtful and honest.  She makes no apologies for the life she has led and is completely transparent in regards to where she sits in the world of top executives and the most successful people.   She has been driven since she came out of the womb.  I appreciate that. 

It is harder for women, bottom line.  There are many reasons for that and I do hope that for each generation it gets easier.  It is the desire for both genders to have an interest in breaking perceived notions of roles.  Certainly a man can change a diaper, buy groceries or do laundry as easy as a woman can.  On the other hand a woman can certainly run a company, rule the world and write code as easily as a man can. 

The one big take away from the book is something I talked about three years ago at the first Womens Entrepreneur Festival is that woman need to be champions of each other.  Whatever decisiosn we make in our lives are our own.  As women we tend to question if we made the right choice even when it comes to buying a pair of shoes.  Perhaps that is the reason we judge each other so harshly because we are questioning our own decisions.  Women who stay home, women who work full time, women who work part-time, women who don't have children, women who have chidldren, women who go into non-profits, women who go into profits…whatever it is we should be respectful and applaud the decisions that one makes for herself. 

Sandberg has reached a level that few women have gone before.  She is giving candid advice about the lessons she learned to get there.  Regardless of where you are in your life or what you strive for there are lessons to be learned.  As women we should applaud that she wrote this book. Regardless if you like the book or not the take away should be about embracing other women and the road that we are traveling down.  Sandberg has put her stake in the ground that as women we can all hope that the next generation will have a less rocky road because of it. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. lindsaycampbell

    Couldn’t agree more! And thanks for all you do to support women entrepreneurs!

  2. William Mougayar

    I’m with you in celebrating this book. I didn’t quite understand the flurry of critics she received when the book came about.Ok, she is a bit pompous at times, but then, so what. Men are pompous too. It’s not a gender thing.The more we see women role models and successes in business, the better for everybody.

    1. Gotham Gal

      most people at that level have a sense of ego regardless of gender. we shouldn’t look at women different than men.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      I like your point about the fact that men are pompous too. It has been my experience in the business world that when women display traits that are considered normal for men, women are considered “bitches.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve been called that, just for leading and doing my job. When a man does it he is admired, when a woman does it she is vilified.

      1. JLM

        .That is so trite and “yesterday” and irrelevant to the world as it is today.If I were to encounter a woman CEO and someone did not describe her as a bitch, I would wonder what is wrong.It is so irrelevant as to be unheard at its utterance. It bounces off my ear unheard.It is like the words “right wing conservative” or “left wing liberal” — they no longer really convey any meaning.It is also just so common and rude. If someone said it to me, I would just think them to be inarticulate and boorish.JLM.

        1. AMT Editorial Staff

          Yes. JLM. Common & trite. The non-thinking reply. Thank you. You expressed it perfectly.

        2. LE

          “and someone did not describe her as a bitch”As you can probably confirm after years of dealing with all types of sales or others – people tend to like people who make it easy for them and give them what they want and dislike (but possibly admire otoh) people who make the sale difficult for them.If I hear from a salesman that another businessman is “a nice guy” I can infer much from that comment.

      2. LE

        “my experience in the business world that when women display traits that are considered normal for men, women are considered “bitches.””Can confirm this being the case as a man who has observed that in men and actually many things much worse than that being said.That said men will also do that with other men that they perceive as beneath them in order to put them in their place. Really no different than what is called “parental” behavior with children or with other adults.Although I’ve only spent about 2 or 3 years working in businesses that I didn’t own, the behavior was a bit shocking to me (as someone with 2 sisters) when I came across it the first time. “I lifted her skirt and there was a …” in response to one women and this was at a company in Silicon Valley by a man that everyone knows and loves in the startup world (was the early 90’s..)I’ve also seen it with men not wanting to marry successful women or smart women. Literally questioning why in the world I would want to do that at all and not instead have them dependent on me.I think much of this from my own experience has to do with the attitude of a man’s father (and his friends and whether and to what extent he is influenced by those). My father always made positive comments as far as women who were a big benefit to their man and encouraging. The phrase was “she pushed him”. I’ve used that when describing Joanne v. Fred since it seems (from what I know at least) to describe the situation that my dad used to talk about admiringly. My mom was very conservative didn’t want my father to take any chances and didn’t push him at all. Luckily he didn’t listen to her.

    3. bsoist

      The more we see women role models and successes in business, the better for everybody.Agreed!

    4. bsoist

      Men are pompous too. It’s not a gender thing.A principal called me arrogant when I was twelve years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was offended, but my parents basically told me – “you’re twelve! and what he sees in you is a good thing. With our help, you’ll learn to grow out of that and keep the good, and smooth out the rough edges.”I wonder what he might have said if I were a girl. Would he have said I was bossy or not acting like a lady? Sandberg’s comments about women being called bossy really hit home with me. I have a 14 year old daughter who has tremendous potential as a leader, and even I ( a 21st century man who accepts women as equals ) have to stop myself sometime when she starts to remind me of my sister. I used to say “who made you you’re aunt Barb?” but I’ve learned it’s not the right message.

      1. Gotham Gal

        teaching young women to leverage that “bossiness and brains” is probably key. i read a piece in the nytimes book section that interviewed sandberg and she comes across like a smarty pants know-it-all. men come across different because they have not had to speak up to show the world that they are the top of their game too. teaching our daughters on how to lead without having to toot their horn out in a smarty pants way, i believe, is the real key to success.

        1. bsoist

          Wow! Thank you for that bit of advice. I get it.

        2. LE

          You can also use the fact that women are viewed differently to your advantage though because if men view women differently (and let their guard down) by the contrast principle they will be greatly impressed and taken off guard when the women is correct.I find that when I deal with people in person that because I’m a shortish jew dressed in dungarees people inevitably are unprepared for what I have to say or what I can do.I remember once when I let my guard down with a woman.I was getting boat insurance and my insurance agent (a women who I had dealt with for many years) asked me if I had taken the safe boating course.I said “sure” so I could get the discount.She then said “at what flotilla because I used to teach that course”.Was a good lesson. I told her “on Delaware Ave (in Philly)” figuring they must have one there and I guess they did because she didn’t question any further.

  3. takingpitches

    So spot on:Whatever decisions we make in our lives are our own…whatever it is we should be respectful and applaud the decisions that one makes for herself.

  4. Lisa Abeyta

    “Women need to be champions of each other.” Yes – this is the key. Well said.

  5. CCjudy

    I cannot relate to Sheryl sandburg. Why don’t you write a book?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I have thought of writing a book. Went down that road. In the end I passed because of the huge suck of time and not sure that the rewards made it worth it. One day.

      1. Lisa Abeyta

        You’ve actually already written a book – one blog post at a time. If you ever decide it is the right time, a good editor could help compile your posts into an ebook that would be easy to format and publish.

        1. Gotham Gal

          It would be. Keep that under my hat.

  6. JLM

    .I read the book and it left me a bit cold. I left with a sense that women are meaner to other women for some reason. More demanding for some reason. SS clearly got paroled from charm school a semester early.JLM.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Would you have felt cold if this was written by Bill Gates?

      1. JLM

        .Good question. Honestly don’t know.JLM.

        1. Gotham Gal

          You should think about that. My guess is that you wouldn’t use the words that you used. Hence that is the problem that women are judged differently whether they are running a multi-billion dollar company, a country or pitching a business deal. We should think about their smarts and abilities nothing else.

          1. JLM

            .I don’t need to guess as I can assure you I would, in fact, use the same words. Words and mincing them is not me.I was commenting not about the person but the book. Perhaps difficult to separate one’s written words from their personality.You knee jerked to make my comments about the person rather than the work product.I felt much the same way as I did about Ted Kennedy, a hugely wealthy guy, championing the plight of the poor in America or a guy like John Edwards and his phony Chapel Hill/UNC Poverty Center.Just doesn’t ring authentic to me.She is not representative of “ordinary” women. She is obviously quite extraordinary.Not every woman has her gifts and thus her advice would not work for many.Rest assured I would hire her in a second to run any business because of her track record and nothing more or less.Based upon both potential and outcome. A tender spot in her book.Embrace everything in her book — no so much.The mark of any professional is the ability to make good professional decisions within the professional space while being agnostic to other issues.JLM.

          2. Gotham Gal

            She is absolutely not representative of “ordinary” women. But is anyone who runs a big corporation and writes a book representative of the “ordinary”?She did not have to write the book but obviously felt she had advice and a voice and I applaud that. It is hard to be authentic at that level but she moved up the ladder and learned a lot on the way up. She is sharing what she learned and that is to be applauded. Might not all resonate with many but telling women to manage their business life vs their career is very good advice.

  7. lksugarman

    What Sandberg writes about isn’t necessarily anything many of us haven’t been speaking about for, literally, decades. However, she says it really well! I love that she readily acknowledges her advantages. They’re a fact. But, most importantly, I think the lesson we can take from “Lean In’ is that while she had these advantages, there are certain patterns of behavior that all women must adopt to be successful in their universe.Everyone has a tendency to look at successful figures and discount what they’ve achieved because of special advantages “we” don’t have. It’s an excuse!So, stop standing back, LEAN IN and take your place in the front row.Obviously, I love the title. It is the perfect distillation of what women need to do!

    1. Gotham Gal

      absolute patterns that need to be understood and broken

  8. AG

    I am looking forward to reading the book. Was wondering whether you would post about it. One thing I know without having read it, I’m not a fan of the title.

  9. Christine

    Sandberg did not have to stick her nose over the parapet and offer advice to those of us still in the trenches. Haven’t read the book yet but I am grateful that she did. It is generous, regardless of whether I agree with what she actually says. Would have been easier for her to keep mum and let the rest of us muddle along without the benefit of hearing her story. And how fortunate I feel to be living in a time and place where reasonable people can disagree on how best to advance women in business. Not so long ago, wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    1. Gotham Gal

      the fact that we are having the discussion is absolutely the key

  10. AMT Editorial Staff

    We ready every comment below. And the word that didn’t come up: Confidence. When one is confident it is very easy to support others. Confidence starts very early. Confidence is an inner understanding (among other things) that success is NOT mutually exclusive.

  11. meredith collins

    Well said. I have been surprised by the backlash. I agree that everyone may not feel that everything in the book applies specifically to them, but isn’t that life? Take what applies to you and learn from it — and take what doesn’t apply to you and learn from it as well! Nick Kristof wrote an op-ed in the NYT a few weeks ago after he had sat on a panel at Davos with Sheryl. His personal viewpoint was a real eyeopener for me. I think of myself as someone who does lean in, but he taught me a few things about myself. Love to know the community’s thoughts if you have a chance to read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2013

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great editorial

  12. Nancy Hechinger

    This is far and away THE best review of Lean In I have read.

    1. Gotham Gal

      🙂 thank you!