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Lean In – Chapter 1: The Leadership Ambition Gap

January 6, 2020

It’s sad that I resent that this book is so well ranked on The List.

I do, though. I find it uncomfortable to write about the issue of being a working woman.

I find it uncomfortable that addressing gender gaps in the workplace is most easily dismissed as me being hysterical, or worse, entitled.

And should I address that problem, I’m just as easily re-dismissed as being a snowflake.

But, regardless of how I feel, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a force to be reckoned with as far as The List goes.

It has remained at the top for over two years (since I’ve been tracking).

And, since I’m tackling The List, here I go.

Lean In Chapter 1 Quotation

But while compliant, raise-your-hand-and-speak-when-called-on behaviors might be rewarded in school, they are less valued in the workplace.

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In – Chapter 1 Page 15

The idea here is that clearly women are as smart and intellectually capable as men, as demonstrated through childhood and beyond.

Why then should there be an “ambition gap?” Why won’t women pursue leadership roles as much and as aggressively as men?

To be clear, Sandberg has left no room for second-guessing whether there is an ambition gap, or a real occurrence of women refraining from pursuing leadership roles in general.

At least that’s what the citations are meant to convince you.

And I think at least in part these citations are a defense mechanism; not in the academic sense, like in 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson, whose career as an academic shone bright in his innumerable citations … okay, they were numerable as they were numbered, but you get my point.

For Sandberg, it’s almost like an attempt to preempt any debate.

She’s thorough. And prepared to take on the world with this argument.

Unfortunately, it’s missing some of the cavalier power of just saying your piece and making your own arguments…


The best thing I’ve ever read to explain the “ambition gap,” or anything related to the gender disparity is Kim Scott’s treatment of it in Radical Candor (it was actually published separately in an article, and that’s how I found Radical Candor in the first place).

It’s not coincidental, however. Kim Scott worked directly for Sheryl Sandberg at Google.

I can’t remember how I came across that article; perhaps because Tim Ferriss pointed it out on Facebook.

It’s worth checking out.


For me, the takeaway from this chapter is that I’m not alone.

But that’s not as comforting as it might sound.

It doesn’t matter how many “me too’s” join the chorus, and how many calls to action are made by leaders like Sandberg…

Rather than inspiring, I find it just makes ambition, along with its end goals, seem less viable overall.

Lean In – Chapter 2: Sit At The Table

Lean In – Chapter 3: Success And Likeability

Lean In – Chapter 4: It’s A Jungle, Not A Ladder

Lean In – Chapter 5: Are You My Mentor?

Lean In – Chapter 6: Seek And Speak Your Truth

Lean In – Chapter 7: Don’t Leave Before Your Leave

Lean In – Chapter 8: Make Your Partner A Real Partner

Lean In – Chapter 9: The Myth Of Doing It All

Lean In – Chapter 10: Let’s Start Talking About It

Lean In – Chapter 11: Working Together Toward Equality