Lean In

Summary Written by Vanessa Chase
"Our culture needs to find a robust image of female success that is first, not male, and second, not a white woman on the phone, holding a crying baby."

- Lean In, page 49

The Big Idea

We hold ourselves back

"Internal obstacles are rarely discussed and often underplayed."- Lean In, page 9

Sandberg is certainly not the first woman to take on the issue of women in leadership, but she does so in such a counterintuitive way that you can’t help but pay attention. She proposes institutional barriers will be torn down once women are in more leadership roles. And, in order for women to get those leadership roles, women must start with themselves. Marianne Williamson once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.” I can think of no better quote that captures the essence of what Sandberg is suggesting.

Some of the internal barriers that women commonly face are: lack of self-confidence, having unattainable standards, trying to do it all yourself, not living in the present and achieving authenticity. Sandberg says that when women overcome these barriers they can fully “lean in” to their careers and become comfortable with ambition. This is an interesting, yet not entirely new concept in the personal development world. Anthony Robbins has certainly capitalized on the debilitating effect fear can have on an individual. This made me wonder if the issues Sandberg discusses really are exclusive to women, or if there’s some universal truth to them.

Insight #1

Success is Making the Best Choices ... and Accepting Them

"When I remember that no one can do it all and identify my real priorities at home and at work, I feel better, and I am more productive in the office and probably a better mother as well."- Lean In, page 138

As a mother with two children, Sandberg is very familiar with the challenges working mothers face. Even for women who are not mothers, there are some takeaways from this GEM. Chiefly, that no one can do it all and maintain sanity in the process. To combat this lone and perfect ranger syndrome, Sandberg suggests the following:

  • Accept what you can do: Understand what you enjoy doing and can reasonably get done in the time allotted. This is really a process of coming to terms with our natural limitations.
  • Do it well: Once you’ve committed to what you can do, commit to doing it with excellence and integrity.
  • Outsource: Seek help for tasks that can easily be done by someone else.
  • Share the load: If you have a spouse, ensure that they take part in running the house.

Join our newsletter

Sign up for the very best book summaries right to your inbox.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insight #2


"Don’t wait for power to be offered. Like that tiara, it might never materialize."- Lean In, page 63

One of the lessons that surfaces throughout the book is that women don’t ask nearly enough. We don’t ask for help. We don’t ask for raises. We don’t ask for flexibility. The list goes on. Yet, anyone who has experienced some degree of success will tell you that they didn’t get there alone.

At first, I thought this was about asking for permission, which I don’t necessarily agree with. But I came to realize and appreciate that Sandberg is encouraging women to take action; asking is merely the means to the end. She encourages women to be open to taking risks in their careers and also taking opportunities when they are available. “[T]here is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take the opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around”.

Lean In offers readers a wealth of interesting stories and advice from a woman who has clearly conquered corporate America. But what’s more is that this conversation about women’s leadership can be enhanced further if men understand the scope of the issues. Lean In is a book that anyone will benefit from reading.

Read the book

Get Lean In on Amazon.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook. Prior to Facebook, she was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department. Sheryl lives in Northern California with her husband and their two children.

Subscribe to digest
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.