Why Are We Afraid to Lean In?

By Posted in - Book Review & Professional Development on August 24th, 2016

While I recognize that I might be a little late to the game, I choose to read Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for my Clairemont book review selection. It’s a book I’ve wanted to read since it first was published in 2013, but seeing as I have two young children, here we are three years later.

Since the book has been out for some time, I was familiar with a few of the criticisms prior to reading Lean In, such as, “It’s easy to lean in and do it all when you have a lot of money.” But since the percentage of women in C-suite leadership positions is disproportionately low, I was interested to hear from Sandberg about her experience climbing the corporate ladder, especially in the male-dominated tech industry.

What I discovered is that,while she has held some very powerful positions throughout her career, Sandberg was also trying to juggle being a good mom, wife, friend and employee just like the rest of us. I thought Sandberg shared some insightful observations in this book. Here are a few that really resonated with me:

Don’t be afraid to speak up and take risks.

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” Sandberg writes in the book.

That was one of the most powerful lines in the book for me and something I have seen time and time again throughout my career. By nature, women are people pleasers. We don’t like to brag or call attention to our accomplishments. I know it’s a generalization, but men don’t seem to have the same problem accepting compliments for their successes.

And when offered a new role or the opportunity to take on a new project, women often hesitate – worried that we don’t have the right skill set – and suggest that someone else would be a better fit for the job.

The key takeaway here for me was that we should not be afraid to throw our name in the ring more often and be comfortable just saying thank you when approached with a “job well-done.”

Visualize your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder.

Being a working mom who has taken steps backwards and sideways in my career to balance work and family, this analogy really hit home with me. It made me realize there are many different ways to get to the top, and they are not all in a straight line.

“Ladders are limiting,” Sandberg writes. “Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.”

You really can’t do it all…and that’s ok!

Gone are the days of trying to do it all…at least all at the same time. The reality is that when woman try to juggle career, children and relationships, inevitably one of those things suffers. We can do it all, but maybe just not all at the same time. And that’s ok! What we do need is a really good partner or support team to make it all work. Sandberg urges women to make their partners real partners instead of trying to do it all themselves. And if you are a single mom, surround yourself with a strong network to help.

The sad twist to her story is that in the book she talked so much about the importance of having a strong partner, and how her husband Dave Goldberg played a huge role in her career success. As you are probably aware, her husband died suddenly on a family vacation in May 2015. In May of 2016, she delivered the UC Berkley commencement address. During this address, she shared some very personal and very good advice with the new graduates.

“It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude— gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children. My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude—not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it.”

Want to read more Clairemont book reviews? Check them out here!

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