Leaning Versus Doing

March 31st, 2013

LEAN is the new, popular term these days. It is topping “passion,” “happy,” “narrative,” “strategic,” “synergy,” “authentic” and even “transparency”. The current hot use of lean is not an adjective related to how slim and healthy one is. No, it is a verb that intends to direct our attitudes and behaviors in a specific direction. We are told now to “lean in” to certain political positions or aspects of life.

Lean seems an odd way to describe an active engagement. It has a tentative, non assertive connotation. We might say, if we are undecided that we are “leaning toward” a resolution or if we are negative about something that we are “leaning away”. If we want to relax, we “lean back”. None of these actions represent to me a dynamic, definitive, committed, active engagement with life. Words which would describe a real intention to act would more likely be jump, run, grab, hold, or better yet embrace.

So, the recent active and somewhat controversial dialogue about the importance of women “leaning in” does not in my mind support a strong, assertive and dynamic engagement with one’s career. Leaning is really just a little non threatening movement, a small almost imperceptible shift that moves us just a little bit closer to the position we aspire to. It is intended not to threaten, not to invade another’s space. It is easy to lean back if there is push back. It is not really taking charge, taking responsibility, or taking risks to make something happen.

“Leaning in” entreats women particularly to demonstrate that they are serious about their careers and to demonstrate more commitment and focus on advancing and succeeding…not quitting before they try. I agree, but I think leaning is too modest. Women and men who take active charge of their careers, who know what they can contribute and pitch their agenda assertively are not leaning; they are embracing and perhaps running…maybe even the company!

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