Before You Diss Or Dismiss Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

IMG_1621Just so you know, I am a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg.

Drawn in at first by her ground-breaking, high-impact TED talk, I wanted more! I was bummed when Amazon said her book would arrive a week later – what? – tho it arrived in 2 days. I devoured it the next evening and haven’t finished it just yet.

I’m purposely sharing thoughts without having finished her book. Why? While I strongly recommend that we DO read deeper than simply opining based on surface details or popular conversations… I don’t ever want to stop you, or curb your appetite (in fact I want to encourage you!) to practice sharing – start sharing – and keep sharing – your own BOLD point of view.

We learn so much from you and from each other. We need to keep hearing many voices, of various pitches and cadences, to keep growing by being open to experience many points of view. Not just the louder ones. And not just the more comfortable ones.

Regarding the hoopla, controversy and kudos surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, I’ve immersed myself listening and learning from all sides. As owner of The BOLD! Factor and a positive force for self-leadership, confidence and re-igniting success… I’m passionate to discover and share my own BOLD POV in response to what’s being said.

Here’s what I’ve been hearing – and a few thinkabouts to share – as I’d like to challenge status quo thinking:

1) *She is out of touch. Sheryl Sandberg has no clue what my world is like.*

Ah, relatability. So, important isn’t it? In fact, Sheryl would probably relate it to her very real concern that likeability is holding us back.

So she has no clue what your world is like, right? It’s really not about that tho, is it?

She is not trying to present her point of view from an *I Am Everywoman, Everywhere* perspective. In fact, I love the way she continues to say that this is HER experience, not everyone’s, in a very welcoming, humble at times, keep-it-real way. I’ve grown to love this about her. She is not trying to pretend she knows YOUR life. She’s simply reflecting from her own place, what she sees happening in the world of work, and what she intends to do to help positively impact change she sees as needed, in women stepping up to take charge of their own success.

For those who feel she doesn’t know or relate to your life. Of course she doesn’t know your life. Again, she’s not trying to. Do you really know and can you relate to her life as COO of Facebook? I know I sure can’t. And I have no interest to.

2) *She’s successful and her life is what it is because she’s privileged.* 

Privileged?  She sure is!**

Smart? Talented? Gifted? Yes, Yes, and Yes!

Let’s be willing to keep surrounding ourselves with, and learning from, people who are different, smarter, quieter, louder, more global, more local… than us!

She’s letting us know she has a hard time accepting success kudos. She says she still struggles with her own success. And no, she didn’t give a thought to negotiating her own hiring offer Facebook first presented. It was her husband who insisted she does not say Yes to the first offer.

Oh sure, see, she IS privileged – she has a supportive husband! Yes she is and yes she does. And I know, that part about no plan to negotiate her offer surprised me, too!

She addresses what some see as adding/piling on to her Privilege: her powerful statement about choosing the right partner, making your partner your real partner, to go through life with. For me, this is among the most courageous statements she makes. At this stage of my life, looking back from here, I personally and enthusiastically applaud her in speaking that truth, out loud.

She’s NOT saying it’s easy, even in her privileged life. She IS saying it’s important.

**Let’s look at that word: Privileged. We are all, in our own special way, Privileged. When we hold that against someone else, maybe we simply aren’t willing to take a closer look to see what Privilege in our own life looks life.

I got up today. I’m not just living… I’m ALIVE. In this, I am PRIVILEGED. How about you. What does *Privilege* look like for you?

3) *She’s blaming ME for the problems of my company, my organization, my industry.*

Well, no, she’s not exactly blaming you as much as wanting to help with what she calls a need for women to Lean In and keep Leaning In.

I call it BOLD Self-Leadership: Owning It Like You Own It. These concepts are not too far apart, which may be why I love what she’s trying to do.

And let’s face it, problems inherent in work are not going to be solved overnight.

On the other hand… based on what I know to be true, get this:

When it comes to the Self-Leadership aspect of The BOLDFactor and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In… whatever YOU want to change in YOURSELF… you can most certainly change, sometimes overnight! I certainly have changed a few of my own *things* overnight and YOU CAN CHANGE YOURS TOO!

4) *Men are the reason Women are being held back from top positions, from leadership roles, from living the life we want, from being who and what we are capable of being…*

I’m calling BS on this.

I’m not turning this into a why-I-DON’T-blame-men rant, because I’ve decided I’m not joining that conversation. It’s OLD. I’d rather be BOLD. I sometimes think it’s more the women of my (boomer) generation that continue to fan these flames. Ugh. Enough already.

YES, there are plenty of men who are jerks and men who will not *let women in*. For sure. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe there are also plenty of women who are jerks and who will not let women in. Boom. 

I get blasted when I say this, but I’m going to keep saying it: Guess What. Many Smart Women Do Not WANT (much less crave, which is the true BOLDometer for any real personal change) What Comes With That Corner Office.

Some Smart Women DO, and BRAVO YOU! because we need BOTH men and women at the top and every level in between. We’re all in this game of life together, and we certainly need each other to all be in this game of work, together.

BOLD! NUGGET: If you feel you are being held back by men (or women!) then dig deep, find the courage, and invite the conversation. Directly with that person.

You might learn a lot. You might come away even more disgusted, in which case, why are you still there?! And imagine this: you might come away having inspired someone else, opened their eyes, to a whole new way of seeing reality. How exciting is that?!

5) *Women are the ones who need to – and who will – fix this.* 

Not so fast.

When it comes to shifting and changing workplace realities, these issues and opportunities requires both men and women at the table, invited into and involved in, these important conversations. 

In summary re: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement and launching her great concept of Leaning In Circles:

While I love the concept and believe in the possibilities of small groups of women gathering in conversation and encouragement, taking new, inspired action…

What I hope doesn’t happen is creating an even bigger divide, by sustaining women-only gatherings to solve workplace issues that desperately require BOTH men and women at the table, with all voices participating and heard. 

I applaud Sheryl Sandberg for shedding big light on this hugely important topic… and starting these controversial conversations.

The risk is already worth it!

What’s on your mind? Whether you’re passionate or new to this whole conversation… I hope you’ll let us know.

And by the way, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you’re here!

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®1993-2013 Ann Ulrich    THE BOLD! FACTOR®     AnnUlrich.com

Photo:  There was never a doubt in my mind as to what my logo would be when I launched my own business. Having been forever marked-down by my teachers – in probably every grade – for overly-enthusiastic overuse of the !!! in my writing, reports, art… I colored one BOLD RED in 1993… and ever since use it to my heart’s content! (!!)

2 thoughts on “Before You Diss Or Dismiss Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

  1. Goddess Ann!

    Wonderful insights on this post!

    Having attended the only all-women MBA program in the world – Simmons School of Management – I agree wholeheartedly that men are not holding women back from succeeding and from positions of leadership. We do. And we certainly can hold each other back, as evidenced by derisive comments aimed at Sheryl and many other women in leadership positions.

    I’m with you… the thought of leading as a COO at Facebook or any other large corporation… just shoot me! That’s not for me… but I’m so happy it’s for Sheryl and many other large corporate Goddesses out there. Congrats to them for leading a BOLD life in the direction that suits them.

    It’s taking a few generations to delete or at least diminish the gender factor in leadership. The Millennial generation will be the game changers. They don’t see sex/color/age/nothing. They see what needs to be done and what has to happen to get there and hey, who’s up for this ride. :D

    LOVE YOU and your work – MUAH!

    @AndeLyons

    • Ande!
      You know what we’ve just done here? We have championed each other and every other woman to DO THE WORK SHE WANTS & LIVE THE LIFE SHE WANTS & BE WHOEVER SHE WANTS TO BE.

      Guys too, but here we are focused on She’s so She it is. (Sheeshta all this gender stuff – I am tired of tripping over it!)

      We need more voices willing to champion whoever, as you say, is up for this ride – up for their ride – up for any ride they want to take – and who is to say anyone’s ride is not the *right* ride.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts Ande. Simmons stands proud, no doubt!

      Keep Going… BOLDly!
      @AnnUlrichInc

      PS Your point on Millennials is spot on, Ande – can’t wait to hear what others think – as always, welcoming thoughts of all stripes!

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