When I picked Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg as my book club choice I was mostly trying to fill my “powerful woman ought to read this” criteria. But lo, each chapter brought up an interesting point that seemed ripe for discussion. What would it feel like to “lean in” to more than just your career but into your whole life? With each new chapter, answering that question may just be what helps you take your world to the next level.
With the fall here and a return to focus on those important career matters, it’s a good time to revisit the bestseller and the lessons it has to offer.
- What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?
When Sandberg asks this question in her book she is predominantly focused on whether women would “take risks,” and “aspire to leadership positions” in the workforce. While many women are achieving in school — earning 57 percent of the undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of the Masters degrees in the U.S. –- there is a discrepancy when looking at the leadership structure of our world, from corporate America to government). A 2012 survey of Millennials (defined as those born between 1980 and 2002) found that women are less likely than men to feel that the statement “I aspire to a leadership role in whatever field I ultimately work” describes them very well.
A 2008 survey conducted by the Girl Scouts found a possible reason for this hesitation in women to toot their own horn. While there was no difference in the likelihood of girls and boys having leadership aspirations, girls are more concerned about social backlash. Yes, there are countless factors that influence differences between men and women, however it is socially accepted that a girl leading is often labeled bossy. Boys are seldom labeled this way. Girls — and women — might better rise to the top without these cultural pressures.
- Sit At The Table
Sandberg recalls a meeting she hosted where one attendee brought two senior executive women with him and two junior executives. While all of the men sat around the conference table the women (including the senior execs) took their food last and sat in chairs off to the side of the room. Even after Sandberg motioned for them to join the group they demurred. This begs the question: Are there ways in which you are literally holding yourself back? Even when the door of opportunity is wide open and others are encouraging you to go through do you ever find yourself choosing instead to watch life from the sidelines?
Sandberg found that many people, but especially women, feel unworthy or guilty of recognition. This becomes reflected as a reluctance to speak up: in class, at work, in life because you are sure you will embarrass yourself. Research shows that when people assume a high-power pose (for example, taking up space by spreading their limbs) for just two minutes, their dominance hormone levels increased while their stress hormone levels went down. As a result, they felt more powerful and in charge and showed a greater tolerance for risk. Plaster a smile on your face when you are feeling down and feel your mood begin to shift from the outside in. And when a door of opportunity opens, walk through it.