Book Review – Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I took up this book for many other reasons than those things that in the end, ultimately, led to my enjoying it most.

Firstly, I know that in the digital world as far as leaders-of-people go, Mrs.Sandberg is clearly among the most revered. Someone who is results driven. A leader whose traits you wouldn’t be amiss to want to try and emulate.

Secondly, because I didn’t know that much about her, I thought the read would would serve to both brush me up on her path to the C-suite, as well as provide some insight on how successful women have managed to (more and more) navigate the primarily male-dominated waters of what is the tech space. And not because I think it’s remarkable that she’s a woman and has done it, but because I think it’s important for all of us (especially men) to understand and appreciate the challenges women have to face to get to spots like those Sheryl has. That as a businessperson, and one who aspires to dealings with higher ups of the likes of companies similar in size and stature to those Sheryl has helped run, that it would be in my best interest to have a functional knowledge of the rise of one of the best.

Sheryl is clearly a numbers person. A fact-based person. There are so many footnotes and references to studies and surveys and tests and stats in this book ⅓ of the total pages are dedicated to housing them. That’s not a bad thing. Not at all. And you can tell by reading it’s not only these things and her belief that women in general have been slighted over time when it comes to traditional jobs, and traditional definitions that inspire her, but the chance meetings, family, and inspirational personalities (husband included) who’ve come to touch her life over the years too.

She talks of not being good at sport, and gravitating towards school and learning – and excelling naturally. Of how childhood aspirations of becoming a Supreme Court Justice or working in areas where she could make the biggest difference in the world and in people’s lives was a recurring theme. How she didn’t believe she’d end up working at for-profit businesses the likes of which she has thus far.

To show just how far she’d come Sandberg touts the advice of Eric Schmidt in her lead up to taking on role at Google as some of the best she’d ever received when it comes to deciding to move on to a new company/opportunity – the potential for fast growth.

Far from an ode to feminism, Sandberg brings to light all the standard stereotypes that have and continue to exist when it comes to working moms, C-suite female execs, and the need to stamp them out. How they exist inside and outside her work places of choice, and worse, among other moms and peers who see a women’s striving for advancement and the greatest opportunities as a sign of not wanting to ‘handle’ the alternative; the alternative being a family and home for supper every night at 5pm.

By her own admission she’s become an unlikely mentor and a proponent of women’s leadership and how more of it may in fact serve to change the world for the better. How those things viewed as traditionally bad which are more commonly associated with women; emotional ups and downs, family issues, taking things personally rather than looking at them objectively, confrontation, etcc..can serve to help better inform an organization, not to mention what being sensitive to these things can mean to female employees and even customers.

Another thing I liked about the book is that she often credits other people with informing her deepest and most difficult decisions, as well as those who have propped her up over the years and served as great wing-people. One of the greatest signs I believe, of a true leader, is being able to bring those that have gotten you where you are onto those podiums and into those victory circles with you. To show that although you’re a smart cookie, you couldn’t have gone it alone. It takes strength to do that when at the top of these big conglomerates, and she isn’t shy to do it – so for that she should be commended and applauded.

Like Sandberg, I’ve been lucky in the sense that my upbringing has more or less granted me the opportunity and beliefs that anything I wanted is technically possible. My mom worked her whole life as a teacher, as did my dad, and incidentally it was at teacher’s college where they first met and where my mom was the one who helped my dad “get serious” about class and ensured he got the grades necessary to move on and get a job. She’s still the one who has the reigns for that matter.

Such is the case with my wife, who perhaps to my chagrin (considering her brilliance) isn’t as entrepreneurial as I’d wish her to be, but with her umpteen years of schooling, degrees, and Masters, is a clear indication that strong women can and do succeed in whatever it is they choose to do.

For the past 7 years my wife has worked at home raising our children. And this was her choice. Fortunately we have been able to get by and been allowed to experience that, but I don’t look down on those who haven’t nor those who have chosen not to. Doing it all and having it all are two very different things – the former impossible – the latter defined by each individual. Sandberg does a great job of justifying (not that she has to – but at times this is what it sounds like) her decisions and seeks to make a case for other women wanting to do the same thing – even though sadly they should not have to either.

I’m putting my personal stamp of approval on this one as a must read for any leaders out there aspiring to bigger things, as well as any man or woman for that matter who has ever doubted the potential of the fairer sex.

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