Notes from ‘Lean In’


Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a book that attempts to tackle some of the assumptions that prevent women from leading and doing things that matter to them. Here are some notable quotes/ideas that I thought are worth sharing.
1. “There is no perfect fit when you are looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” – Padmasree Warrier, CTO, Cisco.
2. “If we want the world with greater equality, we need to acknowledge that women are less likely to keep their hands up. We need institutions and individuals to notice and correct for this behavior by encouraging, promoting, and championing more women.”
3. “The time spent thinking about an issue is billable.”
4. “Decades of social science studies have confirmed what the Heidi/Howard case study so blatantly demonstrates: we evaluate people based on stereotypes (gender, race, nationality, and age, among others). Thus, success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.”
5. For women, self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense.
6. We should learn a thing or two from children. “A child can cry one moment and run off to play the next. For me, this has been good advice.”
7.”It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few. If women held 50% of the top jobs, it would just not be possible to dislike that many people.”
8. “When you want to change things, you cannot please everyone. If you do please everyone, you are not making enough progress.”
9. As a candidate at the interview, we should be asking the employer, “what is your bigger problem, and how can I solve it.”
10. “We must be willing to trade seniority for acquiring new skills. Careers are a jungle gym and not a ladder, anymore. Ladders are limiting whereas jungle gyms offer more creative exploration.”
11. “When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people not to be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters.”
12. “If you are afraid to do something, it is usually because you are not good at it or perhaps too scared to even try.”
13. “If you are going to work for the next 30 years, what difference does going “back” 4 years really make?”
14. “The cost of stability is often diminished opportunities for growth.”
15. “If you meet 60% of the job criteria/requirements, take it up and learn the rest by doing it.”
16. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any.”
17. Hard work and results should be recognized by others, but when they are not, advocating for oneself becomes necessary and must be done with care.”
18. “The men were focussing on how to manage a business and the women were targeting on how to manage a career. The men wanted answers, and the women wanted permission and help. Even though mentorship is important, waiting for a mentor is like waiting for prince charming.”
19. “Mentorship is often a more reciprocal relationship than it may appear. The relationship is more important than the label, ‘mentor’. People tend to confuse a mentor for a therapist and a vice-versa. Peers can also mentor and sponsor one another as “all advice is autobiographical”.”
20. “Feedback, like truth, is not absolute. The upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.”
21. “Humor can be an amazing tool for delivering an honest message in a good-natured way.”
22. Many of our professional decisions are influenced by our personal lives.
23. “Don’t leave before you leave. The time to scale back is when is a break is needed not before, and not certainly years in advance.”
24. Some women use their pregnancy not to slow them down at all but, rather use it focus and provide a firm deadline to work toward.
25. “Women who are most likely to leave the workforce are concentrated at the opposite ends of the earning scale, married to men who earn the least and the most. This exodus of highly educated women is a major contributor to the leadership gap.”
26. “We overcome biology with consciousness in other areas. So, even if ‘mother knows best’ is rooted in biology, it need not be written in stone. Instead of gatekeeping things, do things collaboratively with your partner.”
27. “For women, earning money increases their decision-making ability in the home, protects them in case of divorce, and can be important security in later years, as women often outlive their husbands.”
28. “The antiquated rhetoric of ‘having it all’ disregards the basis of every economic relationship: the idea of trade-offs. Due to the scarcity of the resource of time, therefore, none of us can ‘have it all’, and those who claim to are most likely lying. Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement. The key to focus attention is to do things that matter. Done is better than perfect. Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. A decision, when made public, can help a commitment stick by creating greater accountability. Technology, while liberating us at times from the physical office, has also extended the workday.”
29. “Study after study suggests that the pressure society places on women to stay at home and do “what’s best for the child” is based on emotion, not evidence. There is, thus, no reason for mothers to feel as though they are harming their children if they decide to work. Guilt management can be just as important as time management for mothers. Instead of perfection, we should aim for sustainable and fulfilling. Success is making the best choices we can and accepting them – just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
30. “Whoever has power takes over the noun – and the norm – while the less powerful get an adjective. The simple act of talking openly about behavioral patterns makes the subconscious conscious. Talking can transform minds, which can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions.”
31. “Merit can be manipulated to justify discrimination. The goal is to give women something men tend to receive automatically – the benefit of the doubt. We cannot change what we are unaware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change. Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
32. “A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Semantics can be important, but I do not think progress turns on our willingness to apply a label to ourselves.”
33. “The dearth of female leaders causes one woman to be viewed as representative of her entire gender. This is not just unfair to the individuals but reinforces the stigma that successful women are unlikeable. There’s a special place in hell for women who do not help other women. The mommy wars, which pit mothers who work outside the home against mothers who work inside the home, attract the most attention. These mommy wars are so bitter because both groups’ identities are at stake because of another clash of social ideals. So, you have each group of women judging the other, because neither group of women has been able to live up to inconsistent ideals.”
34. “One of the conflicts inherent in having a choice is that we all make different ones. There is always an opportunity cost, and I do not know any woman who feels comfortable with all her decisions. As a result, we inadvertently hold that discomfort against those who remind us of the path not taken. Guilt and insecurity make us a second-guess ourselves and, in turn, resent one another.”