Lessons on Leaning In

Hello blogosphere … where have I been you might be asking? Well, the very quick version is it’s been one heck of a crazy summer filled with weddings and laughter and busy busy weekends.

But here we are, embarking on the most joyous of all seaons … FALL. Or, as I like to call it, the season of PUMPKIN FLAVORED AWESOMENESS:
I have already sucked down two very large pumpkin spice lattes since September started and have plans for many more. One of them was during a delightful afternoon over Labor Day weekend spent huddled at a coffee shop with my newest read, the notorious Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. 

I picked it up after reading a review by my favorite PR blog, which stated, quite frankly, that “Every, single woman who earns a paycheck in any form needs to read this book.”

I was intrigued. So I nabbed a copy (on sale I might add) and set to reading. And here’s the thing … I loved it. I loved it because of how much it made me think, how much it challenged me and how many lessons I learned in just 172 pages.

Take initiative and seek out opportunity.
“It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.” (Lean In, page 35)

Sandberg encourages women to sit at the table, to act like you should be there (even if you don’t feel that way … “feeling confident — or pretending that you feel confident — is necessary to reach for opportunities”) and to speak up and take initiative.

We need to seek out new challenges, even ones that you may not know everything about. “Women need to shift from thinking, ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing that” (Lean In, page 62).

No next step is perfect, Sandberg says. Rather you have to take the opportunity and make it fit for you.

Take control.
“It’s up to us to decide what we are willing to do … The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately — to set limits and stick to them.” (Lean In, pg. 126)

We need to set our own standards and exert more control over our careers, Sandberg says. This begins by changing our mindset about our career path. Rather than thinking about the corporate ladder, lets start to think about our careers more like a jungle gyms, which offer more creative exploration.

“The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment. Plus, a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top. On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above” (Lean In, pg. 53).

Be real.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” (Lean In, page 91)

Sandberg says that often women want everything to be perfect. They want to be perfect at their job. They want to be the perfect friend. They want to be the perfect mother. But these kind of lofty ideals aren’t attainable. Rather than attempting to achieve unattainable standards, she talks about embracing one of Facebook’s mottos: “Done is better than perfect.” “Done, while still a challenge,” she says, “is far more achievable and often a relief.”

Choose your traveling companions wisely.
“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.” (Lean In, pg. 110)

According to Sandberg, it’s hard for women to “have it all” when they don’t have someone who is willing to stand by their side and help them. “When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects, or even better, wants to do his share in the home” (Lean In, pg. 115).

I am lucky to have someone like this. Adam believes that I am beautiful, smart, ambitious and opinionated (right hun?). Plus, he’s very handy to have around the house (see previous blog on cleaning) and we have a stellar cooking arrangement … I cook, he cleans. He cooks, he cleans.

But all humor aside, he is a wonderful, ambitious and caring Christian man who values his family and wants to see his wife succeed as much as he wants to himself. I am lucky that I have chosen such a partner to spend my life with … even before Sheryl Sandberg told me to.

Also, Sandberg is quick to remind women that we need to help one another. “It’s heartbreaking to think about one woman holding another back … The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves” (Lean In, pg. 164). I am lucky to have a set of stellar girlfriends and wonderful mentors who are all about lifting each other up and helping one another succeed, especially over a glass of wine. As my dear friend Dani says, a win for one is a win for all of us.

Having it all is up to you. 
“While I believe that increasing the number of women in positions of power is a necessary element of true equality, I do not believe that there is one definition of success or happiness. Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both.” (Lean In, pg. 10)

At the end of the day, the book is about defining success on (get this) your own terms. It’s about living the life you want and standing up for your dreams, whatever they may be.

As the fabulous Gini Dietrich says, “This book isn’t about privilege or what some of us have that others don’t. It’s about being able to achieve anything we want. It’s about knowing when to lean in, but also when to lean out. It’s about deciding what your definition of having it all means…not what the rest of us want it to mean.”



2 thoughts on “Lessons on Leaning In

  1. Lean In was my favourite read of the year and your review nails it! You even used some of my favourite quotes from the book. I’m excited to see all of the Lean In Circles groups forming across the Globe by and for women in all manner of professions (Executives, Stay at Home Moms, etc.) I also happen to think Gini Dietrich is fabulous and am glad to find a kindred blogger to agrees on these points. Thanks again for sharing!

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