My plan was to write a little review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In:Women, Work, and the Will to Lead as a jumping off point to talk about feminine power and the urgent need for women’s leadership in organizations, institutions, corporations. Well, right away you can tell I have big questions in mind. Too many for one blog. This is going to be a series. Let’s talk about this.
Just a few comments on my blog title. When i think of “lean in”, I’m picturing bending, inclining, slouching, slumping, dipping, sagging. I bow my shoulder to the plow. The opposite and refreshing term “lean back” is Arianna’s. Take a break. Stop killing yourself, your creativity and joy, by a fast paced narrow focus on climbing the ladder of success. On following a constant career marathon, as Sandberg describes. At least backing away is a bit of a vacation. Away from the heroic masculine shortsighted focus on the sole metric of dollars. But I’m picturing something else from women leaders. A leap beyond these dualities. A transformation of what it means to lead a successful life. Like the hundreds and thousands of women who begin their own businesses every day. Leaping beyond the limitations of structures and practices which do not value their vision, creativity, talent. Overcoming the deeply internalized myths of female inferiority.
Leaving the ladder for the web. Leaving the language of war for the mother tongue of connection.
First, I commend Sandberg for fueling many conversations about women in leadership. We both agree there should be more women in power. But what kind of power are we talking about? And to what ends? Arianna Huffington has begun a brilliant conversation on what she calls the Third Metric: Redefining the meaning of success and power, going to the root of what is so wrong with the system. Calling for a third women’s revolution. Making room for wellbeing, for wisdom, for wonder.
What do women most value? Are women not ambitious enough, off ramping, leaving before they leave, not going for the corner office? Sandberg implies in several sections of her book that women leave organizations and the possibilities for promotion because of conflicting family responsibilities. This is not true. The research here in the U.S., the U.K and Canada show the primary reasons talented, qualified women leave organizations are because 1) They want to contribute to a larger world; 2) They are dissatisfied with the direction of the organization; 3) There is a toxic climate or culture; 4) Their contributions are not valued; 5) They feel isolated and disconnected, unable to bring their whole selves to work. This includes their hearts.
Here’s a wonderful statement by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods:
“We can’t solve the problems at the level of consciousness we’re currently at. We need our leaders to release love. Love is in the closet. And we all know women on average have a much higher emotional, spiritual and social intelligence than men do. Men’s metaphors for corporations are primarily war metaphors, sports metaphors, and Darwinian metaphors…survival of the fittest. These are antithetical to having love in the culture. So, if love is going to come out of the corporate closet, it’s going to have to be women who release it.”
Sandberg charges women with not being ambitious enough. I think most women are very ambitious. They want a different world. One their children, grandchildren, seven generations out can live in peace and prosperity. That’s a wild dream! And a financially sound one as well.