Why Men Should Read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In March 22 2013

sandberg1So, it’s pretty clear that Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, doesn’t need any help from me in promoting her new book, Lean In. (For more on Sandberg on this blog check out Wondering ‘Am I A Good Leader?’ Take the Sheryl Sandberg Test.) In what is the most impressive book launch I’ve ever seen, Sandberg and her book on women and leadership have received a ton of coverage and conversation online. She’s chatted with Oprah, been on the cover of Time magazine, and featured in publications like the New York Times, Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times. Lean In sold 140,000 copies in its first week and the publisher has ordered 400,000 more copies. It’s number one on Amazon, USA Today, and will be number one in the March 31 edition of the New York Times bestseller list.

The week Sandberg’s book launched I was at a management offsite with one of my executive coaching clients. I suggested to him the first night we were there that we both needed to read Lean In. I haven’t checked in with him yet, but I’m about two chapters away from finishing it. While Sandberg’s primary purpose with the book is to encourage women to lean in to their careers and play big, after reading it for the past couple of weeks I’m even more convinced that men should read Lean In too.

Here are three reasons why:

Be a Part of the Conversation – When a book launches as huge as Lean In has, it changes the conversation. Pretty much every serious business person I know has read Jim Collins’ Good to Great. People talk about that book all the time. Based on the first couple of weeks of performance and buzz, I’m predicting that Lean In will be bigger than Good to Great. I’d argue that it’s a more important book because of the fundamental issues and opportunities it addresses. People will be talking about and referring to this book for a long time to come. If you haven’t read it, you won’t be able to intelligently participate in the conversation.

Provoke Your Thinking – As I read Sandberg’s book, I found myself thinking a lot about how her stories and points applied to my own career as an executive and an executive coach as well as my life as a husband and a father. While there were many points she made that immediately resonated with me, there were others that caused me to question some of my assumptions. Her book also pointed out to me how my thinking and approach have evolved (hopefully) over time while flagging a few current blind spots for me as well.

Benefit from the WisdomLean In is very well written. It’s simultaneously substantive and conversational. It’s an easy but important read with a lot of wisdom acquired through experience. Sandberg’s chapter on mentoring – both receiving it and giving it – is worth the price of the book by itself. She writes as if she’s a trusted colleague who’s giving you the benefit of the lessons learned from working with or being one of the top execs in organizations such as the World Bank, the U.S. Treasury Department, McKinsey, Google and Facebook. The opportunity to learn from her experience is gender neutral.

What’s your take? Have you read Lean In? Do you plan to? Based on what you’ve read about the book and Sheryl Sandberg so far, what takeaways do you have?

9 Responses to “Why Men Should Read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In”

  1. I plan to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book but also some others which apparently take a different stance. There has been a lot of hostile comment, from women, on the book and the advice in it. Only some of that comment focuses on the fact that Ms Sandberg is rich enough to hire lots of help to make her executive life easier, and on the self-glorifying aspects of her book. Other criticism could be summarised as: she advises women to be more like men. (continued)…

  2. …..Yvonne Roberts, reviewing the book in last Sunday’s English newspaper the Observer, said, in part: “If Sandberg had read Future Work by Alison Maitland and Peter Thompson, she would see numerous examples of how productivity goes up once technology and flexibility and trust in employees are successfully combined so that people can work from home in hours that suit them….and still climb the ladder. Maitland and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, in Why Women Mean Business, demonstrate how women’s varied traits and characteristics have themselves a value to business without mutation into mini-males. Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe has researched assiduously for years the different styles of leadership that women successfully bring to organisations. And then there are Susan Cain’s arguments in Quiet about the power of the introvert and how, counter to Sandberg’s view, the less pushy male… and female have a great deal to offer too”.

  3. and finally…

    I notice that most writing on this topic focuses on what women need to do to succeed rather than on how organisations might change their approach to benefit more from the talent of the women in them. If 80%+ of top executives, and 80%+ of partners in major law firms, were female not male, I wonder if there would be lots of advice offered to men on how to be more like women. The very implausability of that hypothesis suggests that the gender imbalance results from historical and social factors.

  4. Katy says:

    Hi Scott – I can't agree more. One of the things I liked best about Lean In was the fact that Sheryl didn't demonize men. It's not a "we win so they lose" mentality, and in fact she highlights that both men and women stand to gain from more equality in upper management. Men could have more support in being engaged fathers and not be looked down on for prioritizing family over work. And women should consider men to be allies in this process vs. making them the enemy. It's an interesting approach and frankly I found it pretty refreshing!

  5. Eileen says:

    Scott: Thank you for writing: "If you haven’t read it, you won’t be able to intelligently participate in the conversation." Too many "reviewers" over the past few weeks never cracked open the book. I agree with Katy, and found the book's message intelligently refreshing. I admire Sandberg for asking women (and, I agree, men would also benefit from this) to confront the internal obstacles that hold them back, while not ignoring the external factors that we still need to deal with.

    • I have read and listened to reviews that don't give the book the credit it deserves. At least they haven't read what I read in the book. Interviewers tended to twist and trivialize Sheryl's message. I agree, I don't think they actually read the book and reviewing based on outdated arguments that find fault in one or the other gender. I taped Oprah's interview last night and looking forward to watching to see if Oprah gets past the old rhetoric. Oprah is at least known for reading the book before the interview which probably explains why it took a few weeks to schedule.

  6. Lynn says:

    I agree that the push in this book seems to be for women to change their behavior. While the book is well written, timely and has great ideas, Iwas also disappointed that there was less push on organizations as far as changing their behavior…

    Pay for women lags behind. Women are not typically promoted based on their potential. Cultural forces still weigh heavily. To change this, the issues need to be attacked from all sides…

  7. Read the book and think it is both timely and valuable for sparking the conversation. Something that Sheryl has been quoted as saying often in response to "why". The book validates what we have been blind to over the past few decades basically because we have been steeped in the moment ("we" being women and men in the workplace). Sheryl is opening up the conversation again and bringing awareness to the bright young women who are being groomed for leadership, and who will be prepared to take leadership rather than abandon it. I ask my male colleagues to be open to the conversation for the betterment of business, family, and community.

  8. Lilly says:

    We've proposed a SXSW panel on this exact topic! Would love your support :) You can vote on it here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/22699

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