Impressions and Thoughts from “Lean In”

Lean In Book by Sheryl Sandberg Image from

Lean In Book by Sheryl Sandberg
Image from

Last weekend while on my flights to/from Texas I read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. I had read a lot of the press leading up to the release of the book, had watched Sandbergs TED talk and her commencement speech, and had read several interviews she had given, so the overall themes in the book (and some of the stories to illustrate them) were not new to me. Even so, I am glad to have read the book, as it’s left me a week later in a different state of awareness, and with questions I’m continuing to ponder.

Several of the recommendations in the book – Sit at the Table, Seek and Speak Your Truth, and Make Your Partner a Real Partner – deal with the gender-specific behaviors, expectations, and assumptions that in general hold true. As I went through my work and non-work activities this week, many of these jumped out at me.

• A women who was leading a state-government organization was described to me as being a ‘tough woman’ – would the same have been said of a man in the same role doing the same things?
• During a work phone call, someone from another organization said my group was noticed because of the ‘pretty woman” and the people “aren’t use to seeing that”. While part of my mind was flattered, another part was racing with how to respond to that professionally (I smiled and said nothing).
• And in another meeting, an older man commented how hard his son has it with work and a 2 year old daughter – ‘He sure is busy and has a lot to juggle. A lot more is expected of guys these days’.

The topics Sandberg deals with are around us each and every day. I don’t want to turn in to someone who is reacting negatively or interjects every time something happen that is based on gender roles/behaviors/assumptions. I do want to be someone who is aware of it, and when I think saying something, reacting, or drawing attention would help, I want to be strong enough and brave enough to do so (and not worry about what people will think of me – ha – classic woman behavior).

While Lean In does provide some specific recommendations (start talking about ‘it’ – impact of having kids on work, asking for what you need, go after opportunities that are beyond your current capabilities, focus on being impactful in business and not just on finding mentors, don’t take a step back too early), I have been left thinking this week of how to figure out more structural and institutional changes that I can influence and impact.

Along with the book is the community, which I’ve joined and explored a bit, but I have not yet created or joined a Lean In group. I’m going to talk to a few friends about starting one, but I think part of my hesitation is that something more must be done than bringing small groups of women together for support.

How will you Measure your Life? by Clayton Christensen Image from

How will you Measure your Life? by Clayton Christensen
Image from

I’ve also been listening to Clayton Christensen’s book ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’, and a major theme is the focus we put on measuring our success by tangible things in our career, while we don’t give the same care and attention to success with family and friends. Maybe that is what is in need of changing – recognition that success and leadership in life can come through many things.

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
This entry was posted in Ambition, Business, Entrepreneur, Family, Flexible, Leadership, Mom, Resources, Startup, Technology, Women, Work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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