Review: Lean In

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” is one of my favorite lines from Lean In. My take on this book is going to be a little different from others; less focus on feminism, more on its overall usefulness as a self-help book. “The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.” speaks to me as much as I imagine it speaks to women around the world. The rest of the book feels the same way.

Sheryl starts the book with an emphasis on the importance of sitting at the table, speaking up, balancing the expectation of being liked and the ambition to succeed. It takes me back to some of my earlier internships in which I always sat at the back of a room, never spoke up, and was always worried if others liked me enough. To some degree, I still have these issues. Being a recent graduate, I’m worried whether or not I have the credentials (chops) to voice my opinions in front of a roomful of senior engineers. I often fear that if I speak up, I might open myself up to harsh criticism. These first chapters of the book are my favorites. They push me to face my own fears and encourage me to stand up to them. It’s reassuring to hear that my problems are real and there are practical ways to overcome them.

The chapter on the myth of doing it all is another of my favorites. It reminds me of a speech I’ve heard recently, which was about one’s purpose in life. The speaker gave three points on the subject of living: to live is to cherish each moment, to love, and to matter. What’s a better way to make it matter than becoming a leader? To lean in is to embrace ambition. The myth of doing it all tells us to focus on what truly matters and are important. Tradeoffs must be made. And what needs to be done should be completed in the most efficient way possible.

The last part of this book is a compilation of several essays written by a set of men and women, each reflecting on his or her career. Those chapters I found not as effective as the main part of the book, partly because I was used to Sheryl’s writing style by that point in the book; the essays also felt a bit repetitive. But each of the essays, if read standalone, is actually quite well-written, nicely connecting the author’s story to the theme of Lean In.

This book was a very satisfying and at times eye-opening read. It’s a great book for anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her life.