Tuesday, 4 August 2015

"Lean In" by Sherly Sandberg - book review

When her book first came out, I heard a lot of hype around Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”. Just opening the front cover exposes all the accolades from the respected, famous and influential, such as Alicia Keys, Sir Richard Branson and Condoleezza Rice. 

I hadn’t managed to get round to reading it until I started it last month, but before I started, I must admit had reservations about it. 

I don’t know much about Sandberg as a person or as a writer(unfortunately I have never met her) so this was purely me basing my belief that hyped up excitements rarely live up to their expectations.

But I am pleased to say though, I am wrong! 
Oh so wrong. 

The hype was right (just for once of course, I am still right that the hype is rarely lived up to). This book is fantastic.

my already battered copy of "Lean In"

In the book, Sandberg approaches the issue of women in leadership and how women often unintentionally are held back (even by themselves) purely because of their gender. It is not their ability holding them back, so Sandberg’s main words are that women need to ‘lean in’... they need to be encouraged to “sit at the table”, and not hide on the sidelines.

Sandberg encourages women to be confident, take risks, to not wait for the ‘perfect time’ (because there is no such thing to be honest) and to take initiative. “Taking initiatives pays off. It is hard to visualise someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do”(pg 35).

A combination of her  own experiences, observations and research, ‘Lean In’ makes for a compelling and fascinating read.

picture from http://www.buzzquotes.com/business-career-quotes

She is brutally honest the whole way through the book, even of her own downfalls, mistakes and learning curves. She admits to things such as
 “when I get emotional, it’s very hard for me to treat a problem lightly (pg 87)” and give an honest account of how she felt the pressure to miss as little work as possible during maternity leave (admittedly the pressure came from herself). She even shares that for years she“attempted to solve the problem [of juggling it call] by skipping on sleep”, something that she realises with hindsight was counterproductive. 

What I admire and respect for her sharing these stories is because of that honesty and owning up to the issues many of us, of both sexes, are encountering. It is also refreshing to hear from a powerful woman in leadership to know as a woman, success can be achieved and to not worry when we find it a challenge. 

“My first 6 months at Facebook were really hard. I know I am supposed to say ‘challenging’, but ‘really hard’ is more like it”.

It is as if in today’s modern era we are afraid to admit that we can’t do it all or if we try, we feel the pressure. It is only by talking about it – openly – that we can start to address some of these issues.

There is a serious amount to learn from her wise words. One of the joys of reading her writing is not just because every page offers you a wealth of knowledge, but because of the ability to relate even though we are not COO of Facebook. Her words are so down to earth.

Easy to read with no business jargon, this is a mixture of humour, serious insight and passion.  ‘Lean In’ is a must read for anyone with an interest in leadership, not just women, it is one of the best inspirational books I have read in years! 

X x X

Earlier this month, after I started reading 'Lean In', Sandberg tragically lost her husband, who she continually refers to in her book, as well as crediting him for her success. I hope that for her, but the millions like me who she has inspired as well, that she continues to be phenomenal. I watch with eagerness to see what she continues to achieve. 

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