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Book Review: “Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg

Book Review Career Leadership

In 2014, my mum gave me this book but I didn’t finish reading it. In September 2019, I started researching books about women (especially in leadership or management) who were resilient and broke barriers in their fields and this book “Lean In” came up. So, I decided to go look for it & and finish reading it. 

This book is ideal for both men and women. It’s a conversation around the challenges women face to forge ahead at home, in the workplace and in today’s society. As a man, being knowledgeable about the issues women - like your mum, sister, aunty or girlfriend - face too can help you advocate and provide adequate support where needed. She empowers girls and women to take charge, believe in themselves, take more (calculated) risks, reach out for opportunities and occupy leadership roles in society. “As you think, so you are”. It is a reminder that if you think you can do or become something, you will as you work towards it. Some of us have to consciously unlearn ideologies - learnt through our upbringing or experiences - of what women are capable of. Women are powerful beings and can be anything we set our minds to be; including change agents, leaders, visionaries, risk-takers and more. As policies and grants are being formulated to reduce gender-bias and support more women, we also have a part to play in ensuring we don’t limit ourselves any longer. Sheryl challenges us to seek growth, build healthy connections, equip our minds and position ourselves to lead wherever we are. 

4 things I learnt from this book 

  1. Being risk averse can lead to stagnation. As women, there are internal obstacles that seem to hold us back from achieving things. Studies shows that women are more likely to apply for jobs if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed. While men, apply even if they think they meet 60% of the criteria. Lol, I can totally relate to this stats. Sheryl encourages us women to stop limiting ourselves and challenge ourselves boldly by choosing growth, taking more risks, negotiating more and asking for promotions. We should shift our mindsets from “I’m not ready to do that” to “I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it”. When it comes to negotiating for better pay, she suggests providing legitimate explanation based on performance and by citing industry standards. She reminds us that when we negotiate, we should “think personally, act communially”. This way, we see ourselves negotiating - not just for ourselves but - on behalf of all women. 
  2. Mentorship is vital for career progression. It is a reciprocal relationship that benefits both the mentor and the mentee. “Mentors can save you years of unnecessary labour”. Before I read this book, I have always believed in having the right people who can guide me, invest in me and give me constructive (not demoralizing) feedback to become a better version of myself. Personally, I had mentors in other areas but not professionally. During my post-graduate degree, I decided to seek out a mentor (especially in the field of Human Resources) so he/she can show me the ropes on this professional journey. In my free time, I usually attend workshops or events hosted by Invest Ottawa. Overtime at a couple personal development events, I met two industry leaders in the HR field who have and are still guiding me on this career journey. I’m very thankful for their feedback and belief in me. They have challenged me to be and do better. Sheryl explains that mentors tend to look for performance and potential in possible mentees. They are more likely to invest in individuals who know are eager to learn, know how to manage their time wisely and are open to feedback. She encourages us to redefine the messages we tell young girls and women (like myself) and shift our perspective from “get a mentor and you will excel” to “excel and you will get a mentor”. So if you’re looking for a mentor or sponsor, ask yourself “what have you done lately to add value to yourself”. 
  3. Authentic communication is the foundation for successful relationships. This is an area I am still growing in. Sheryl discusses how having authentic communication involves an effective two-way communication. It starts with understanding that there is my point of view (my truth) and another’s point of view (their truth). With this, we are able to share our views to the other party in a non-threatening way. She shares that when we reflect someone’s point of view, it clarifies the disagreement and becomes a starting point for mutual resolution. Secondly, it entails taking responsibility for our mistakes. “Miscommunication is always a two-way street”. She explains that feedback is an opinion - not absolute - grounded in observations and experiences. Lastly, it entails using the act of humour to open up - deliver, seek, own and speak - about our truth (including our weaknesses). When we are unable to manage communicating effectively in our personal lives, it can play a role in the professional decisions we make. 
  4. True partners share equal responsibility. Research shows “women feel they bear the primary responsibility of caring for their children. While men feel their primary responsibility is supporting their families financially”. For both partners to feel their personal fulfillment and professional success aren’t stunted, she writes that we have to “overcome biology with consciousness”. Simply means, the woman doesn’t have to know all about child care, the man can be more knowledgeable in child care and that’s okay. The woman can also be more knowledgeable in financial literacy than the man and that should be okay. Although each partner is graced uniquely and brings different values to the table. Both partners need to see the other as an equal and equally capable partner. As women, we have the tendency to want to do things our way which social scientists call maternal gatekeeping. This is a simple term for “ugh that’s not how to do it. let me do it my way”. She shares that women and men should allow each other grow even if they make mistakes. That way, one doesn’t see their partner as doing them a favour but rather, making a conscious effort to do their part to make things work. So, as we work to empower women at work, men should also be empowered at home. Some men like to say they like ambitious and strong women but get threatened when she is actually that. They like the idea of it but not the reality of it. In today’s world, we need more men who are secure in themselves to allow and support women to be more (professionally) successful. At the end of the day, women are more likely to share the fruits of their success - especially when they are valued & respected - so what’s the big deal? Let’s all work to support each other’s choices. 

I celebrate all the females leading in their own way - at home, school, work - to make this world a better, more whole and healthier place. A couple weeks ago, I watched #SheDidThat on Netflix and it really encouraged me to work smarter, not be complacent and not to despise the days of my small beginnings. It’s inspiring seeing other women - like me - share their journey of how they got to where they are, the importance of building healthy relationships/partnerships, the glass ceilings they are smashing and the legacies they are building. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out. 

The next few posts will feature two (out of the many) young powerful trailblazers who continue to teach me the value of dedication, excellence and relationship building. Sign up to my mailing list to never miss out on the goodies I share. 

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If you enjoyed this review and are interested in buying this book, I got youuu . All you have to do is click this link to get your copy. Happy reading :)



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