Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, Women, Work and the Will to Lead created quite a stir as it looked at the ways women are held back and even hold our selves back in the corporate world. As a result, women achieve much lower success in the top ranks of corporations and this is a loss for everyone.
Her three points of encouragement—1)Sit at the table—have the courage to see yourself in the top ranks, 2)Make your partner a real partner—create gender equality in home care so that both partners have equal capacity for success in the work place and 3) Don’t leave before you leave—meaning stay fully engaged in growing your career until the very last moment, even though you may leave the workforce eventually to do other things are all sage advice.
Yet as I watched her Ted Talk of 2010, my thoughts kept coming back to wholeness. That as much as we can seek to equal the playing field in corporate ranks for women, that there’s another angle to the issue: what if we flipped and gave men the option to lean out? We’ve created a world obsessed with rising to the top, where money and power are seen as the only wealth that is valuable. This puts enormous pressure on men to succeed in this narrow view and over the last 30 years, we keep wondering why women aren’t playing equally well in this narrow view too. But instead of narrowing the options wouldn’t it be better to broaden them?
While I agree with Sheryl that women are more than capable of being equal at the table, perhaps it is time to recognize the true gem that women have already discovered; that real wealth is far broader than money and power. Instead of asking women to lean in, we give men permission to lean out—to wholeness and join women in this rich world. In doing so, we create a far better, more balanced world where work is but one piece of the whole, instead of where it is now for many men—the entire whole.
I’ve had many discussions with men about this—even top male corporate executives who can’t understand why a successful mid-management woman leaves the corporate world. They are so stuck in the tunnel vision that “success” is money and power that they can’t actually envision the broad wealth that women embrace by balancing their work piece with family, community, spirituality and many of the other pieces of the Life Puzzle. Real wealth is wholeness.
Let’s all lean whole! Let’s begin creating a world where success is defined less by money and power and more by the quality of life one creates—both in and out of the workplace. This will lead us to create businesses with a broader view of success. This will enable women to stay in the workplace and rise to the top because they will be building these new businesses grounded in wholeness. And, it will also enable men to have broader options to create lives that aren’t obsessed with the narrow view of success but the vision of wholeness.