Lean in: Women, work and the will to lead

26th Jun 2013


Suggesting women should “lean in “to their careers has got Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, a good chunk of the airwaves, newsprint and blogosphere.  There isn’t a female journalist who hasn’t an opinion one way or the other and plenty of detractors ready to complain that Sandberg can’t possibly give advice to ordinary women who haven’t got her wealth, position and above all support team to help her make things happen.


But I think it’s a book well worth reading.  Without dictating to women how they should lead their lives, reminding them that they need to engage actively with their future and make empowering choices seems a good place to start.  We need to have the debate about how women make decisions and sometimes unwittingly sabotage their own advancement by worrying about things which really don’t faze men.  We need to be aware that being too self effacing can stop us progressing and getting the promotion we deserve.


These are themes I’ve been pondering recently, as I started out on my venture of setting up “Cambridge Coaching Consultancy” for women.  Thinking about the threads across my own working life, I began to see the patterns, the key moments when I took my biggest risks and how they turned out.  None of this translates into easy advice, (a real no-no in coaching in any case!) but sometimes “leaning in” and moving out of my comfort zone moved me on more than the steady steps which felt safer and more secure.  So, what have I learned so far?

  • Having a strong network supports and nurtures you when the going gets tough
  • Gaining professional qualifications really helps your confidence and credibility
  • Taking risks feels scary but sometimes you need that adrenalin kick
  • Making sure you’re clear on your priorities is essential
  • Developing a great team increases success for everyone – there’s enough to go around
  • Playing to your strengths is better than worrying too much about your weaknesses
  • Asking for help is OK and learning to say NO is ok too
  • Having it all is a bit of a myth but it’s a whole lot easier than it was in my mother’s day!