Home / Books / Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg | Book Review

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg | Book Review

Life is beyond the basic needs of food, cloths and a shelter.

But, you cannot look beyond, until these requirements are fulfilled.

They are basic needs for the survival.

To fulfil the basic needs, one or more family members need to earn money and those who remain at home, do household chores are also participating in this earning from a different and important perspective.

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Forget the ancient times in India, that is Bharat, the women are considered as less competitive human beings when it comes to go out and earn. Well, they may have lesser physical strength when it comes to certain types of work, but, the creator has put in some unique abilities on both of the genders. The day people will start considering male and female as each other’s companion, the better half or probably the missing half; the purush-prakriti union will be completed and the world would be a better place.

It is not a preaching lecture, nor a motivational or inspirational blog article. I am reflecting my thoughts on these aspects as today we have a nice book to talk about Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl is better known for her job profile, as she is working as a COO at FaceBook – asocial media network that doesn’t need an introduction.

Reaching at this position is not an easy task. You need to prove yourself throughout your career by taking landmark decisions to be at such position. But, according to me, even more important is to do the job – at such position. It is not as easy as it seem to be. Of course, you earn a handsome amount of money, but, the decisions you take affect hundred or thousands of lives, directly or indirectly! So, you have a burden to take correct or lesser-wrong decisions in timely manner.

Such experiences makes you a humble soul, who start thinking about the things from a very different perspective.

Such wisdom then make the person think of spread it. For the betterment of the society, for the betterment of mass, for the betterment of the current generation and the generations yet to come.

Sheryl’s commencement speech at “University of California, Berkley” is a gem of a talk. Here are our views on the same:

She went ahead and penned down her thoughts about women in general and how their growth mindset is different then men as a book named: .

We got a chance to read it a while ago and found it worth the time and money. Here are our unbiased views for the same.

Let us start with the cover page of the book.

Book Cover:

Being a gateway to virtual world explored within, the cover page affirms the first impression of the book. Its influence on the casual browsers is well-known. The first step is to make a browser pick a book to look at the free content and/or blurb available to give you more details about the same. And, then the potential browser can be a buyer and/or reader.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg | Book Cover

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg | Book Cover

As expected, the cover page shows a formal mugshot of Sheryl with her iconic smile. The designer has opted for simple and minimalistic cover page with light background. And, that works pretty much in favor of the book.

The Book and our Views and Reviews for the same:

Usually, we talk about a book two different segments. Dedicated each to the bird’s eye view of the story and our views and reviews for the same, respectively. However, the nature of this book is different. So, here we are merging both these segments together.

The book is inspirational and motivational for sure. It also elaborates how women are faired in the ladder of leadership, business, jobs and success. Of course, one needs to put away his/her prejudiced mindset when exploring and elaborating the content of the book.

It is about the general scenario she had seen in her surrounding or came to know about. It doesn’t mean that the situation and mindset are the same all around. Also, there are exceptions to these general stuff. The things are, however, true for a majority of human population and the voice she had given to the same must be heard. Because, by hearing and acknowledging a situation, we can be aware of the same. And, once we are aware, we can work on to make the things better. She says in the book:

At the same time, we must be careful not to inject gender into every discussion. I know a male CEO who is enormously dedicated to hiring and promoting women. When a female employee kicked off a negotiation by insisting that she should have a higher title and was undelivered because she was a woman, it immediately put him on the defence. She was speaking her truth, but in this case, her truth was an accusation with legal ramifications. As soon as she framed the issue in those terms, the CEO had no choice but to put their friendly talks on hold and call in HR. It might have served her better to explain how she was contributing to the company and ask for the promotion first.

Sheryl must be appreciated for this book, for sure.

She talks about the things with an example.

MY GRANDMOTHER Rosalind Einhorn was born exactly fifty-two years before I was, on August 28, 1917. Like many poor Jewish families in the boroughs of New York City, hers lived in a small, crowded apartment close to their relatives. Her parents, aunts, and uncles addressed her male cousins by their given names, but she and her sister were referred to only as “Girlie”.

Consider, how they could have felt. It may seem a minor thing to the privilaged one, but, for the person who is passing through such circumstance, it is a different situation. Her very existence is question when a girl is addressed with a common-noun instead of her given name. Unless, of course, referred to in an affectionate conversation. The scenario she is talking about, clearly shows the gender discriminations. The same is true for the majority of people.

She further elaborates another real situation:

A boy’s education was the family’s hope to move up the financial and social ladder. Education for girls, however, was less important both financially, since they were unlikely to contribute to the family’s income, and culturally, since boys were expected to study the Torah while girls were expected to run a “proper home.”

And, it is not only preventing women from getting their due, but also puts an unnecessary pressure on men to earn an amount which sometime is beyond their capacities. A chariot will run properly only if both the wheels are doing their work equally and in integrated manner. Unnecessary burden or unrightfully denials will make their job tougher. It eventually lead to breaking the social canvas!

Here is what Sheryl quote:

It was thought to be a sign of weakness if a husband needed his wife’s help to support their family, so my mother became a stay-at-home parent and an active volunteer.

Sometimes you get the inspiration from the most unexpected place/thing/event. That happened with Sheryl also. She shares:

I know my speech was meant to motivate them, but they actually motivated me. In the months that followed, I started thinking that I should speak up more often and more publicly about these issues.

The attitude of keeping an open mind to get whatever good comes to you, regardless of its source, makes a difference.

Her thoughts of making progress are pretty clear. Here are a few one-liners from the book that conveys her message clearly:

I would not suggest that anyone move beyond feeling confident into arrogance or boastfulness.
– – – – – – — – — – — — – – — – – – – – – – — – — – — — – – — –
It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.
– – – – – – — – — – — — – – — – – – – – – – — – — – — — – – — –
Everyone has room to improve.
– – – – – – — – — – — — – – — – – – – – – – — – — – — — – – — –
Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.

Sheryl delves deep into the psyche of people, in general. Based on her experience of working with so many male/female fellows, she has then articulated this summary:

Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she “worked really hard,” or “got lucky,” or “had help from others.” Men and women also differ when it comes to explaining failure. When a man fails, he points to factors like “didn’t study enough” or “not interested in the subject matter.” When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.

She further elaborates:

When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less. This truth is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking because no one would ever admit to stereotyping on the basis of gender and unsurprising because clearly we do.

Very true…! (Of course, with exceptions!)

She also share some interesting actions, almost everyone of take during our professional life.

In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.

This is very true. Mostly such attributes are instilled in us during our growing up years. In order to not to hurt our loved ones, we take the blame for his/her action(s), and eventually it becomes part of our personality. Well, one must understand that there is a difference in being humble and being stupid.

Sheryl shares about the honesty we find in children. They are almost unfiltered. We teach them to be humble, talk with respect to others, be civil… Well, all this is necessary, but there is a thin boundary (sometimes very thick) that should not be crossed. She says:

This kind of honesty is common from children and virtually unheard-of from adults. As kids grow up, we teach them to be polite, watch what they say, not hurt others’ feelings. This is not a bad thing. As a former pregnant “whale,” I’m glad that most people keep some observations to themselves. But as we learn to speak appropriately, we lose something in authenticity.
– – – – – – — – — – — — – – — – – – – – – – — – — – — — – – — –
Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work.

The book rightly talks about how our psyche or mentality plays a vital role in judging people without knowing them much. During some situations, it is a primary requirement also. For example, when you are conducting an interview, you have to judge the potential in the candidate in a short interaction. And eventually based on your initial impression you make him/her part of the team. Later, you evaluate his/her work in monthly/half-yearly/yearly progress report/work report.

Sheryl shares her experiences in the same regards:

ABOUT A MONTH AFTER I joined Facebook, I got a call from Lori Goler, a highly regarded senior director of marketing at eBay. I knew Lori a bit socially, but she made it clear this was a business call and cut to the chase. “I want to apply to work with you at Facebook,” she said. “So I thought about calling you and telling you all of the things I’m good at and all of the things I like to do. Then I figured that everyone was doing that. So instead, I want to ask you: What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?”
– – – – – – — – — – — — – – — – – – – – – – — – — – — — – – — –
Less than six months after I started at Facebook, Mark and I sat down for my first formal review. One of the things he told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back. He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress. Mark was right.

She also shares some real wisdom pearls like:

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 to not be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters. He told me, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”

The mindset that was imposed and then become the part of our personality sometimes prevent us from doing what is needed. We know that seniors need to give advantage of their experiences to the juniors and juniors, when implement their fresh ideas, has to count on the knowledge and advice they get from seniors; but certain level of mentorship is limited.

The author says:

Junior women and senior men often avoid engaging in mentoring or sponsoring relationships out of fear of what others might think.

And yes, the author says, something very important. If I need to quote only a segment of the book, I would possibly settle for the following:

Find your first job

Unless your plan is to become a rock star, you’ll need a résumé, so make it a good one.
Make a Decision: Do You Accept or Walk?

Planning, having backup plan and timely actions, all are required to get successful in the life, regardless of the age, gender or other attribute.

These quotes must have given you a fair idea about the quality of writing and the type of content found in this book. If you love reading such books, it is a worthy choice.


A nice book. It analyses mindset of people, especially working women and how it can be changed to make the workplace and thus the society a better place. An inspirational book sharing wisdom based on real life experiences. Not only women, but men also can learn a lot from this book.

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 8 stars out of 10.

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