Books We Love: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Reviewed by Rose David

To many of us, Lean In is already a classic. While it’s not the first book that told women that the path to success (be it at your own company or with someone else’s) isn’t easy, it is one of the most popular books in recent years.

This is in part because of Sandberg’s instant Facebook cred, but Lean In would have been a flash in the pan if Sandberg hadn’t given readers such a warm, honest look into her life and the lives of other career-driven women.

Things We Learned

“Having It All” Is a Myth

There’s a pernicious idea that as women, we need to figure out a perfect balance between our personal and professional lives. And, as entrepreneurs, this makes things especially tough.

Often, we expect ourselves to out-perform everyone at our day jobs, make our small businesses an overnight success, and have a home that runs like clockwork.

But Sandberg points out that this just isn’t possible for most of us — you can get what you want, but flexibility and a sense of humor are important. (Check out the story early in the book when she talks about using her breast pump during an important teleconference.)

 

Don’t Shrug Off Success

Out of habit, many bright, ambitious women will fall victim to imposter syndrome. Instead of taking a much-deserved victory lap after a personal or professional accomplishment, we’ll downplay our success or attribute it to others.

For example: “Oh, that? It wasn’t such a big deal! I had lots of help!”

While we’re all for remaining humble and appreciating our support teams, it’s important to own your successes as fully and readily as you own your shortcomings. By not pushing ourselves out of these insecure habits, we can miss out on other opportunities for growth.

 

“Likeability” Isn’t All That

How many times have you been told to smile more? Our guess is you’ve been told to do so at least a few times in your life. And if you took an informal poll among your female friends, you’d probably find you’ve all had similar experiences.

But how many times have you seem men being told to smile more? Probably none.

As annoying as that is, it’s just a symptom of a much larger problem: As women, we’re told that being friendly and likeable is paramount.

Don’t rock the boat. Don’t be too brassy or aggressive!

These are all great pieces of advice if you’re hosting a dinner party, but if you’re trying to start (or grow) your own business, being “nice” shouldn’t have to be the highest item on your priority list.

Favorite Quote

[A]s we learn to speak appropriately, we lose something in authenticity.

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