Book Review: Lean In

The most remarkable thing about Lean In is successful-women batting for the ones on their way up! And the message to the world is:

Fire walled indifference of corporate growth is dead.

Compassion, empathy and open conversation is sexy and in fashion. 


When I heard about Lean In for the first time, the first thought I had was that even if the book has some garbled text filling it up, it is a great idea to have someone like Sheryl Sandberg take up the women and work conversation. Making this point of view heard in corporate corridors and homes is a significant push to the women and work agenda.

In case you haven’t noticed, the political correctness of the majority of highly successful women in corporate world is massive. The ones in the corporate world actively speaking and promoting more women at work is a small group of people. Success for a generation of women meant, fitting into the testerone driven norms, whether it is was travel or working hours. Sandberg not only challenges that reasonably but opens it up for conversation. There are no verdicts, only encouragement to look at facts and needs.

The narrative makes it amply clear that a lot of learnings and leanings in the book arose from Sheryl’s personal journey. Though to the media and the corporate world, she comes across as a high-flying executive, the experience of raising a family while raising a company is a humbling one. Children level out many things irrespective what your rank is and the turmoil faced by millions of women finding a fit between personal-professional aspirations is very similar. It is this context that makes Lean In a very appealing read.

Elements of personal story telling and anecdotes from her own experiences with family, children, peers, colleagues ease the read of an otherwise prickly topic.

Sheryl herself is a great example of how gender diverse teams and women professionals in leadership roles can be great for startup and business success – Google, Facebook, Yahoo all seem to have found a high degree of resonance in the idea. If you are a startup founder or a corporate executive, pick this one up!

The book is an easy read, well written and cleanly edited. Sandberg keeps a reasonable voice and tone through the book and if you have either heard her speak or read her earlier, the book surely comes across as a personable read. The research is intensive but relevant and is detailed in appropriate proportions.

There are only two things Lean In misses – measure of success as an individual parameter and family as a stereotypical unit.

While we know that the corporate ladder is converging into a maze, Lean In approaches the whole conversation from the point of view of someone who is geared to stick it out in the glass walls of the corporate set ups, discounting the growing tribe of women entrepreneurs, SMBs, franchise owners, artists, creative professionals and such like. The fact remains, that measure of success and the significance of the big corner officer are not the same anymore for a large number of people, across the world. An increasing number of women and men are defining success that helps them find better work-life fit. A customized approach to work-life balance as opposed to the race for the ladder approach, the corporate world has advocated all these decades.

Lean In gives a sense of family being a stereotypical unit although nowhere it is articulated so. The feel through the book is that this is a book for the working mom, with career ambition with a family and husband around.

Without particularly saying so, Lean In offers little to single women, single moms, the flexidads, the hobbyist, the creative alternator, people not so big on corporate ambition.

Irrespective, Lean In makes it clear that making your voice heard matters and acting on your conscious decisions works wonders! A simple and powerful idea shared well.

This review was published in Next Big What

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