Friday, March 15, 2013

Leaning In with Lucille, Madeleine, and Sheryl

This will be the strangest review of Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In, that you will read! Why? Because, due to simultaneous recommendations by Systers, real-life sisters, and my female book club, I found myself reading three books at once.
This blog post is my attempt to synthesize these books. Sheryl Sandberg may have the bullhorn right now for a few fleeting Internet seconds, but she's not the first person to demonstrate that women can be smart and successful.

What do Lucille Ball, Madeleine L'Engle, and Sheryl Sandberg have in common?
  • High IQ
  • High EQ
  • Leadership abilities
  • Writing skills
  • Talent
  • Wisdom
  • A sense of humor
  • Hard workers
  • Good story-tellers
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Financial success
  • Assertiveness
  • Extraverted, out-going personalities
  • Good at running meetings
  • Wives
  • Mothers
In what ways do Lucille Ball, Madeleine L'Engle, and Sheryl Sandberg differ?
  • Unlike Madeleine and Sheryl, Lucille Ball came from humble (rural upstate New York) beginnings. Her father died when she was young. Her mother supported the family by working in a dress shop. As a teen, Lucille moved to New York City where she failed in acting school and took up modeling instead. She didn't give up her dream to be an actress, though, and started to find good roles, but in B-rated movies. She moved to Hollywood after getting better known, and became one of the most popular and influential comedic stars in the United States. She was also the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions. Sandberg would have liked her.
  • Unlike Lucille and Sheryl, Madeleine L'Engle wasn't beautiful, at least not physically beautiful. Her friends and colleagues describe her as big and gawky, with thinning hair. Per a story in "Listening for Madeleine," her publisher once arranged for a professional shopper to help Madeleine update her wardrobe for a book tour. Without this help, she might have dressed like Mrs. Whatsit
  • L'Engle is the most religious of the three women. She declines to call herself a Christian writer, but her writing has religious themes. Although Lucille Ball talks about her strong Protestant work ethic, and was a follower of Norman Vincent Peale, she doesn't mention faith or going to church in her "Love, Lucy" book. Sheryl Sandberg has a Protestant work ethic also, although she is Jewish (according to Wikipedia). She doesn't seem to talk much about religion, which is fine. There's no reason she should.  
  • Compared to Lucille and Madeleine, Sheryl Sandberg is very serious, although there's lots of humor in "Lean In." According to her family, "Sheryl never actually played as a child. She really just organized other children’s play.” (Time Magazine) Hopefully she did read, though. I wonder if she loved L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time when she was a girl? Most smart women did.
Who would be the best lunch partner?
  1. Madeleine L'Engle was a great conversationalist and a good listener, and she liked to go out to lunch. She wins the lunch contest. 
  2. Lucille Ball would be a fun (and funny) lunch partner.
  3. Lunch with Sheryl Sandberg would have to be a power lunch. I would need to come prepared with well-researched, challenging business questions. I wouldn't ask "What is the culture like at Facebook?" (Sheryl says in "Lean In" that this typical question irritates her because it's so easily answered with an Internet search.) I also wouldn't ask, "Will you be my mentor?" This typical question also irritates her when it comes from women she doesn't know. She says that mentor relationships should develop naturally between coworkers who know each other's challenges and potential.
Which woman should run for president?
  • The recent Time Magazine article about Sandberg says, "There is always chatter, especially among Californians, that Sandberg, who’s a big Democratic fundraiser, will return to the public sector." I'm sure she would face backlash from the far-left anti-corporate crowd, from minorities and others who say she only represents privileged white women, and from Hillary-hating misogynists, but a lot of men and women would love to see her leadership abilities in the White House. I would probably vote for her!
  • Lucille Ball is probably already President of an All-Stars Comedy Club in heaven. RIP.
  • Madeleine L'Engle is probably President of the Best Writers of All Time writing group in heaven. RIP.
In conclusion, what one message do all three women offer to other women?
  • Lean in and assert your power! Sandberg says this explicitly. The other two women were living examples of the message.
And that concludes the strangest review of "Lean In" that you will read, if you really did read it. (Admit it. You skipped to here to see if you could get by with just reading the conclusion, didn't you? :-)

1 comment:

  1. It turns out that Sheryl Sandberg DID love "A Wrinkle in Time." Check this out: