Ready, Read, Discuss: Host a ‘Lean In’ Book Group

Sheryl Sandberg is a woman on a media-blitz mission. By now, you’ve probably read at least three articles about her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead and heard her interviewed on a different program every day since it launched last week. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to stop hearing other people talk about the book and start talking about it myself, with my friends. And that’s exactly what Sandberg wants — to start a new conversation about women, leadership, balance, everything. In fact, she’s made it practically effortless by putting together a discussion guide and recorded a video message (see below) you can use to kick off your own reading group discussion.

If you haven’t read Lean In yet, I’ve pulled a few questions from the discussion guide that don’t really need much context, and I’ve added my answers to get things going. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Why is “ambitious” often considered a derogatory word when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man? 

Because, let’s face it, “ambitious” is another word for “bossy.” And no one likes to be called bossy. It’s childish, really. It takes me back to cliquey grade school days when being called bossy was worse than being called stuck up. And no one called the boys bossy. As a life-long bossy girl, this one really gets me going.

Sandberg believes that there are times when you can reach for opportunities even if you are not sure you are quite ready to take them on—and then learn by doing. Have you ever tried this? What have you tried? What was the result?

I was once afraid to take a job in part because I didn’t have much experience with social media, which would’ve been a significant part of the position. Well, guess what? No one did at that point—it was still the early days of social networks like Facebook and everyone was learning as they went. It turns out that social media ended up being a big part of the job I did take, and I did kicked butt. Lesson learned.

In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of “having it all,” or even “doing it all,” and points to a poster on the wall at Facebook as a good motto: “Done is better than perfect.” What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find contentment?

Finally, an excuse to not do the dishes. (Wait, my husband does those. Thanks for leaning in, honey.) In all seriousness, as I’ve gotten older and started a family, I try to live by this model, but perfectionism doesn’t die easily. I know a lot of women who struggle with this.

Here’s Sandberg’s message to book groups, and here’s where to find the full Lean In discussion guide.

To learn more, visit

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"Lean In" By Sheryl Sandberg
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