After sitting on my shelf since its release, I finally cracked open the cover of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2012 bestseller “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” earlier this year. I wish I had done it 5 years ago. It is literally a book you can pick up and read cover to cover in a few hours (if you make the time), though the words stay with you much longer. It delivers multiple ‘a-ha’ moments and opportunities to deeply think through how the stories apply to both yourself and those around you. It brought me moments of joy, laughter, and awareness, all the while scribbling notes and highlighting passages throughout the journey. This book is a game changer.
What drew me in most was Sheryl Sandberg’s level of openness and honesty regarding her journey. In one passage, she notes how establishing pregnancy parking for expectant mothers at Google was something she deeply advocated for others yet had not considered during her pregnancy until another colleague made the suggestion. She openly asks interviewing female candidates if they have plans for starting a family so she can help them navigate the expectations and potential hurdles of trying to be a super mom, wife, and executive. Her perspective is from that of a working wife and mother, hence less focus on choices and obstacles faced by women not in those scenarios. However, it provides valuable insight for managing teammates who are and provides guidance on how to best create options for them.
By far, my favorite quote she shares in the book is from author Alice Walker and reads, ‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.’ She encourages women to go after what they want and never wait for someone to offer it. She reminds the reader that learning is the most important quality a leader can have. Her views on the importance of sharing familial responsibilities is truly a partnership, making the read relevant to both men and women.
Most notably, Sandberg wraps with the importance of women working together to help other women develop their talents. She notes, ‘Women’s negative views of female coworkers are often seen as an objective assessment – more credible than the views of men.’ She encourages the strength of women supporting one another to be more successful in the workplace and be protective of the reputations of one another. This type of camaraderie is a force multiplier. In encouraging women to lean in with confidence and determination to make the choices for which they have passion, she also sets a stage for choices not having to be sacrifices. Sandberg’s book was a hit with an all-female IT book club, extending its reach into many households filled with men. Her candor, honesty, and approach have given me and others in the group a much needed reminder that we have choices and we can pursue our passions. The removal of obstacles through personal empowerment is achieved by leaning all the way in.