Here is an excerpt from an article contributed to Forbes by Sharon Poczter (left). To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
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The greatest misconception circulating about Sheryl Sandberg’s recently published book, Lean In (published March 12, 2013), is that it is a book about women. Yes, this is a book that motivates women through the use of data and anecdotes, providing evidence for the negative impact of women’s missing role in leadership. But the deep, dark secret is that Lean In is more about being bold than it is about being female.
Of course, this book is geared towards women, as being bold for one reason or another, seems to happen less immediately for them. However, the lessons enclosed within about management, parenting, relationships and success transcend gender. Rather, Lean In is more of a book about excelling in a world where time is limited and choices are plentiful.
Many of the most important directives of this book, while differentially impacting women more, also apply to men. Helicopter-Tiger mothers and fathers beware, Ms. Sandberg suggests in Lean In that you can both love your kids and your job, and you don’t need to be around all the time at either to be good at doing both. De-prioritizing needless face time in favor of family time and acknowledging that children may thrive with independence, may in fact be the key to handling the simultaneous guilt and anxiety that being both a parent with a demanding career and a COO with a family provides.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this book, however, is that in order to excel one must speak up both literally and figuratively. Using your voice responsibly and authentically, whether by providing input into decision-making, negotiating a salary, or questioning the status quo, is a unifying theme of many of the directives Ms. Sandberg provides.
But of course, while many of the lessons Lean In provides are genderless, it is essentially a “how to” for motivated women to actively avoid the pitfalls that set back their careers and prevent them from achieving leadership positions, above and beyond institutional features women have less control of changing. With decades of experience and a tremendous amount of research, the effectiveness of Lean In is Ms. Sandberg’s ability to pinpoint behaviors women have relative to men that are so obvious they are often completely overlooked, yet represent essential missing ingredients in demonstrating one’s ability in the work environment (not sitting at the table at a meeting, not discussing one’s accomplishments).
The effort in Lean In is directed not towards identifying the source of these differences per se, or placing blame on one entity or another alone, but more proactively, to present suggestions as to how to best change these behaviors.
And while the result of Ms. Sandberg’s research and anecdotal evidence evokes a strong call to arms for women to seek higher positions, women who do not seek these positions are not disparaged or condemned. Rather, Lean In is essentially a book of productive suggestions on how to succeed in business if that is your goal, rendering attempts to extrapolate negativity of any kind towards women from this book as mere demonstrations of precisely the type of gender-focused barriers that Ms. Sandberg is fighting against.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Sharon L. Poczter is an expert in financial economics, industrial competitiveness and strategy and emerging markets. She is an assistant professor of Managerial Economics at Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.