5 Ways Women Can “Lean In” and be a Disruptor

By the SMU Social Media Team

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid,” asks Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Widely hailed as the go-to motivational tome for working mothers throughout the workforce, Ms Sandberg encourages women to pursue their ambitions and change the conversation from what they can’t to what they can do. Here are five ways women can “lean in” and be disruptors both in school and at work.


1. Sit at the table

“No one gets the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table,” said Ms Sandberg, at the 2010 TEDWomen conference. Women have a tendency to underestimate their own abilities. In a research by Wiebke Bleidorn, Ph.D., from the University of California, which studied data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, nearly all cultures showed that men tend to have higher self-esteem. So push that imposter syndrome aside and start owning your successes.

And while we’re on this topic…


2. Skip the people pleasing

Sandberg confesses that one of the challenges she struggled with was feeling the “desire to be liked by everyone.” Setting proper boundaries, and knowing when to refuse is the key to effectively leading. When we are able to stop ourselves from over engaging in everything, we have time to focus on the things that most need our attention.



3. Build external networks

From weekend brunches to girlie nights out, women are constantly expanding and building their social circles. This constant and organic networking enables the creation of more dialogues, exchange of ideas, spread of influence, and the garnering of support for various causes.


4. Visualise your career more as “jungle gym” than a “ladder”

Each job comes with its own unique set of challenges, and there is no doubt that as time goes by, these challenges increasingly become an uphill climb. But Sandberg asserts us not to view the 21st century career path as ladders. “Ladders are limiting,” she says, “ jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of the jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours, and even dead ends presents a better chance at fulfilment.” Sometimes to truly disrupt, one has to break out of the mould and steer away from conventional thinking. Instead of seeing only one way up the ladder (and stepping on everyone else in the process of climbing up), we should view our work environments as multifaceted, with numerous varied perspectives to a situation.


5. Done is better than perfect

And in that same vein, women over the decades have been known to be superb multitaskers, effectively juggling both domestic affairs and work. Often, we find ourselves worrying over every little thing, and more crucially, whether we’re performing our best. Sandberg insists that “done” is better than perfect. There is no point worrying and spending way too much time on a single task when we have so many others awaiting our attention. And more often than not, we’re worrying over nothing. Learning to take a step back and assess the situation allows a better vision, so we can continue to lead effectively without wearing ourselves to the bone.