advice/perspective on jobs, work and management


Lean In (2013, Knopf) by Sheryl Sandberg stands out.

And not because it’s one of the few memoir-style, business/management advice books written by a woman.[1]

Nor is it because she so vividly describes many of the unfortunate disadvantages and systemic injustices confronting women in today’s workplaces.[2]

And sure – like most books of the genre, much of the advice offered is, at its core, contradictory.[3],[4]

But for me, what distinguishes Sandberg’s text so completely from those penned by her male peers comes down to a single passage. On page 150, she writes:

“One stumbling block is that many people believe that the workplace is largely a meritocracy…”

This makes her the very executive I’ve come across—male or female—who is even willing to hint at, much less admit that the organizations we work for are fundamentally unfair.

She thus implies that it may take more—perhaps far more—than attitude, ability, hard work, or even perseverance to succeed in business, or get ahead in the corporate world.

No matter who you are.



[1] Other notable texts include: The Martha Rules (2005) by Martha Stewart, The Mary Kay Way (2008) by Mary Kay Ash, and #GIRLBOSS (2014) by Sophia Amoruso.

[2] One statistic which struck me in particular is that, on average, working women today spend just as much time each week on primary child care as stay-at-home moms did back in the 1970s (p. 134).

[3] In her 2013 book review for titled “Lean Where?”, Amanda Hess points out that encouraging women to “take a seat at the table, raise their hands, and speak up” but also sharing an anecdote about a “communications coach” who helped Sandberg by training her to “speak less” is, in effect, contradictory. ( Retrieved July 13, 2023.) In my own reading, I was struck by the following passage given the text’s now familiar title: “Given life’s variables, I would never recommend that every woman lean in regardless of circumstances” (p. 97).

[4] For my critique of the management advice book genre in general, please see “Throw out that management advice book” and “Throw out that management advice book (Part 2)

[ 1 Comment ]

  1. Bill

    It is funny that the universe of CEO’s who acknowledge the essential unfairness and non-meritocratic nature of the executive suite and corporate boards is…virtually non-existent. Baffling, even


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