The Reality of Lean-In

In Lean-In, Sheryl Sandberg promised women that if they just leaned-in to their careers, they too could sit at the power table. Anne Marie Slaughter (legal scholar and former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department) breathes reality into Sandberg’s lean-in mantra.

In Unfinished Business, Slaughter argues that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune play major roles in our successes and failures in work. She rightly points out the whole truths to the dogmas that pervade our society.

You can have it all if you are committed enough to your career.. and you are lucky enough never to hit a point where your carefully constructed balance between work and family topples over.

You can have it all if you marry the right person… who is willing to defer his/her career to yours; you stay married; and your own preferences regarding how much time you are willing to spend at work remains unchanged after you have children or find yourself caring for aging parents.

You can have it all as long as you sequence it right… as long as you succeed in having children when you planned to; you have an employer who both permits you to work part-time or on a flexible work schedule and still sees you as leadership material…

Luckily she provides some rules to help guide our decisions: stay in the (work) game. Plan to lean-in and to lean back. Make deliberate choices about work; never leave a job in a crisis. And build strong support networks to help you get through the rough times.

Harvard professor Robert Waldinger echoes Slaughter. He urges us to lean into our relationships. A Harvard study of men over 75 years of their lives found that “over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.… The good life is built with good relationships.”

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