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Self Awareness – Cultural Awareness

By Pat Wilson

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’” 

–David Wallace Foster

While Foster was urging general awareness of the world, the same should be said of culture. It is so much a part of who we are that it is often easy to forget it until we become the proverbial fish out of water or we encounter others who are unfamiliar with the water in which we swim.

As we continue our focus on developing cultural intelligence as one tool in the leader’s tool kit, the first step is awareness of one’s own culture. Culture, as you will recall, is the values, norms, and traditions that affect how individuals of a particular group perceive, think, interact, behave, and make judgements about the world. Culture is so ingrained in us that, for example, as Americans, we may fail to understand why people from other parts of the world recoil at our offer of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a quick snack, unaware that while the PB&J sandwich is a well-established part of American culture (according to a survey, the average American adult consumes three PB&J sandwiches every month, and nearly half of Americans regularly enjoy a good PB&J sandwich), many non-Americans find this combination of flavors disgusting, according to delish.com; they prefer other foods that are part of their culture. Vegemite, anyone? How about chocolate-covered locusts?

When we’re talking about culture, there’s rarely a right or a wrong; there’s just different.  Different ideas on food are amusing, but imagine how harmful it can be when “different” is viewed negatively. Recently, a colleague relayed a story about an interview to hire a new professor in his department. The male candidate, hailing from one of the African countries, repeatedly referred to his spouse as “Wife” rather than using her given name, a practice the other members of the interview team found demeaning and off-putting, failing to recognize that in the candidate’s culture, his reference to her as, “Wife” was a show of respect to his spouse. They opted not to advance the candidate in the hiring process, perhaps missing out on a wonderful addition to the department. Making a value judgement about another culture, especially a negative one, can harm one’s endeavors and undermine developing the cross-cultural relationships essential to being an effective leader.

The first step to being a leader who can interact effectively with people of different cultures is to become aware of the water in which we swim. We can’t understand other cultures unless we are sensitive to our own. A simple exercise, adapted from an article in the Journal of Management Education, gives you and the individuals you teach or mentor a chance to consider your own culture. For this exercise, consider how you would describe your culture, focusing on what distinguishes you culturally from others, describing some of the customs, rituals, and ceremonies associated with your cultural group. Continue by considering a member of your cultural group, excluding family members, who is a good role model for others in your cultural group and what makes them a good role model. Finally, consider a situation when you felt out of place because of being different from others. What was it that made you feel different? To take this exercise a step further, answer the same questions, placing yourself in the shoes of a person from a different cultural background.

As you think about your culture, keep in mind that you are influenced by many cultures of which you are a member: American culture; legal culture; the culture of your race or ethnicity; religious culture; and many others. Developing cultural intelligence is not a one-time goal to be checked off on the to-do list of effective leadership. Rather it involves regularly engaging in activities to enhance one’s cultural intelligence, and regularly thinking about this first step. It’s not an easy step to take, but it is well worthwhile.



Alternative Exercise

To get a better sense of your culture, consider the following questions:

How do people in your culture greet each other? With a hug? A handshake? A kiss on the cheek?

How do you address people in your culture? With a title? By first name, regardless of the age of the speaker or the listener? As Auntie or Uncle?

What response is appropriate when those in your culture are paid a compliment? A simple thank you or a compliment in return? 

How do people in your culture disagree with each other? How do they criticize or correct each other? Who is allowed to be critical?

How do people in your culture treat individuals that are outside the group?

This is a non-exhaustive list (obviously) to start to focus on those parts of the cultures in which you swim that may differ from those outside your culture. Please feel free to share your thoughts about this exercise and your observations about culture in the comments below.


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July Challenge: Cultural Intelligence

By Pat Wilson

Multiculturalism.  Is it just a buzzword, a New Age fad for the new millennium?  Or is it a meaningful concept, important to leaders now and in the future? 

Growing up in the Midwest, I learned that America was a melting pot in which different cultures contributed their own distinct flavors, literally and figuratively, to American culture.  There is no doubt truth to that, but how limited my worldview was through college and even into my early career.  Other than a girl named Tiku, who joined my 7th grade class as an immigrant from Uganda following Idi Amin’s seizure of power, my exposure to people from different cultures was fairly limited to the occasional missionary who visited my church, often a transplanted Westerner who shared his or her experiences working in some far-flung place. In fact, there wasn’t a lot of focus on the distinctly different cultures in America, for example, African American culture or Native American culture, or even Southern culture, beyond a few units in Social Studies from time-to-time.  I daresay, that was the experience of most of my friends—eating tacos (our version of Mexican food), chop suey (the only Asian meal anyone I knew ate), and of course spaghetti and pizza did little to expand our knowledge or understanding of other cultures.  Misperceptions about different people, who hailed from different cultures, abounded.

Since my childhood, American has experienced a sea change in culture, perhaps because of the growth in population of individuals from different cultural backgrounds because of immigration and shifts in birth rate.  Perhaps the changes are attributable to less of a willingness of immigrants to assimilate to the extent immigrants did in the past–many immigrants indeed are proud of their cultural heritage, continuing to speak their language and observing their traditions openly.  Or perhaps the change is because we are more cognizant that we are part of a global economy, involving a great deal of movement of people, goods, and services that require interacting with individuals from a variety of different cultural backgrounds in a variety of different settings.

Whatever the explanation, we assume, in fact we hope, that most leaders recognize and accept the premise that to be effective leaders in this multicultural world, one must intentionally work to develop and maintain cultural intelligence, which moves beyond learning about differences to connecting on deeper and more meaningful levels. Cultural intelligence starts with pursuing cultural competence which is the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures.  Culture is defined as the values, norms, and traditions that affect how individuals of a particular group perceive, think, interact, behave and make judgement about the world.  As my colleagues outlined in Chapter 17 of their book, Fundamental of Lawyer Leadership, developing cultural competence involves five steps:  1) being aware of differences; 2) addressing implicit bias; 3) developing an attitude of openness; 4) gaining knowledge and understanding of different cultural practices; and 5) developing cross-cultural skills.

Toward that end, this month’s challenge involves a focus on cultural intelligence.  Over the course of the next few weeks, we will address these different steps, and as we do,  we invite you to share your thoughts and experiences about cultural intelligence.

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Another Growth Mindset Exercise Inspired by the ABA 21-Day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge

By Leah Teague


Every presentation we do on growth mindset includes part of a quote from Michael Jordan: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Day 6 of the ABA’s 21 day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge looks at “The Mindset of a Champion” in which fifth grader Carson Bylow gives a 6 minute TEDxYouth Talk. The talk starts with Jordan’s full quote: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Bylow points out not only the failures Jordan shared but the fact that Jordan actually was cut from his high school basketball team. So, how did Michael Jordan ultimately become the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) in basketball? Growth mindset, grit, and dedication to outworking others.

Bylow acknowledges that he has a growth mindset in some areas and a fixed mindset in others. In his journey to a broader growth mindset, Bylow noted appreciatively a teacher who introduced him to one little three-letter word to help in his battle against fixed mindset: “yet.” Adding “yet” to any self-defeating thoughts or self-talk can change a mindset from one that is ready to give up and go home to one that is invigorated and ready to try again. “Yet” suggests that a different future is possible. “Yet” suggests a new horizon. “Yet” suggests that it is worthwhile to work harder and believe in yourself. The power of “yet” is the power to become more than you are…currently. How can you harness the power of yet when helping students become leaders?

Here is an exercise to try with your students:

Step 1: Give students one to two minutes to think of an area, skill or subject (or more than one, if time permits) where they are disappointed with their performance. You can set the stage for this by sharing one of your own past struggles. In law school, mine was writing. As an accounting major in undergraduate, I scrupulously avoided any electives that required written papers. Shameful, I know! As result, I continued to feel insecure in my writing abilities and missed the valuable opportunity to get better feedback. In fact, my law review article was so bad that my poor editor had to spend many, many long hours over an entire summer to help me get it in publishable condition. I felt worthless and guilty for the trouble I caused my editor. What experience like this can your students identify?

Step 2: Based on their thoughts about areas of weakness, instruct students to pick one or two areas that they think are important or beneficial to their future success. For each, instruct the students to complete this sentence: “I am not good at …”

Step 3: After all the students have had time to write or type one, two or three of those sentences, have them write or type “YET” in big, bold capital letters at the end of each.

Step 4: Next, ask them to assess if they really mean it—if they truly believe this weakness can be improved. If they do not immediately have a sense of hope about the prospects for improvement, have them pause and determine why they are not ready to “buy in.” Why can they not connect to the positivity that comes when recognizing they CAN get better even if they never become a G.O.A.T. Ask them to think about what they could accomplish if they focused positive energy and diligent, deliberate effort to improve. Encourage them to consider the effort as a step toward their future success.

Step 5: Finally, have them write a plan for their work. This could be a good time to introduce the SMART process for setting attainable goals. SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely” and is discussed in Chapter 9, Setting Goals of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership.  

Carson Bylow shared, “Coaches and professional scouts look for athletes who don’t just have skill. They want someone who wants to learn, is coachable, and will give 100% effort in practices. … What they don’t want is someone who thinks they are already good enough, they don’t need to learn, and are not coachable.” The same can be said about what we look for in law students, not only as they learn, but in their future employment as well.

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Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

By Victoria Filoso, Baylor Law Student


Friends,

As part of our leadership development class at Baylor Law, one of the assignments over the quarter is to read a book about leadership. Our definition of what constitutes a leadership book is broad for this purpose, so our students choose a wide variety of books, ranging from “leadership lite” (as Deborah Rhode called it) to biographies of famous leaders. The task to complete the assignment is for the students to write a short review covering the book and why someone who is interested in leadership might want to read it. So, we hope you enjoy Victoria Filoso’s review of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

– Stephen Rispoli


Since her Ted Talk went viral in 2010, Brené Brown has established herself as the expert on vulnerability and leadership. Under the traditional, “old school” leadership mentality, these two terms were considered contradictory— leadership was about strength, dominance, and fearlessness. But Brown has flipped that notion on its head with her focus on how effective leadership is impossible without uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Dare to Lead explores how sustainable leadership requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. Brown seeks to inspire modern leaders to reject the traditional aggression associated with leadership, and to instead lean in to and understand our emotions in order to manage difficult situations.

Dare to Lead is divided into Brown’s four skill sets that make the best leaders: the ability to rumble with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise. The most impactful section to me was the first. “Rumbling with vulnerability,” according to Brown, refers to how leaders deal with the fear and emotions we go through when things get uncertain and tough. Avoiding hard conversations, a lack of empathy, and increased shame are three ever-present conditions that hold us back from being courageous, the skill that Brown continually emphasizes leaders in our society need to master.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” It is second nature for most of us to be concerned with politeness. We are always assessing how others perceive and are constantly crafting ways to converse with others in a way that portrays us as “nice people.” Brown says that this practice of beating around the bush is actually holding us back from being effective leaders. Kindness is not being sweet; kindness is being honest and direct without being rude. In order to make progress we have to address weaknesses and being overly concerned with politeness is counter-intuitive to that. Leaders have to stop avoiding tough conversations because they are afraid of being unkind, because the only unkind thing is being unclear about what you want and need to reach your goals. Leaders need to have the courage to sit down and face those tough conversations head-on.

Courage is the entire foundation of leadership in Dare to Lead, but courage is impossible to achieve without rumbling with vulnerability. Vulnerability is not a weakness, and we need to stop thinking about it as one. Brown dedicates an entire section in her rumbling with vulnerability chapter on the “armor” we all wear to shield ourselves from fear and how armor is the problem, not the solution. Armored leadership drives perfectionism, operates from a scarcity mindset, squanders opportunities for joy and recognition, and rewards exhaustion as a status symbol. Daring leadership, on the other hand, acknowledges and embraces emotions and clarity, encourages empathy, and cultivates a culture of belonging rather than fitting-in. The daring mindset embraces the inevitable risks and fear that accompany leadership, whereas the armored mindset tries to deflect those risks and fears and they therefore stay unaddressed and unconquered. Brown says that being armored all the time should never be rewarded, and that instead we need to reward those who accept and venture into the unknown.

Being a law student through COVID-19, uncertainty has been the constant undertone of my thoughts this past year. After some cursory internet researching, I randomly selected Dare to Lead from the class syllabus to fulfill the book review requirement, but it ended up being one of the most beneficial tools to help me manage my anxiety surrounding the uncertainty. I was meant to read this book at this time, and I encourage everyone who is struggling to navigate our unpredictable world to read it. Because the truth is that the world will not get more certain once we overcome this pandemic. We are still going to face times where a good outcome is not guaranteed and we are still going to endure anxiety as a result –that is just the reality of being human and of being a lawyer. The only place we can make a difference is in our approach: we need to dive right into the water since we are going to get wet anyway. But if we dive in wearing armor, it will instantly drag us down to the bottom. The only way to swim across is to shed the armor, stay in the water, leave our eyes open, and keep moving forward. As Brown said, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

– VICTORIA FILOSO

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Managers Must Be Leaders

By Stephen Rispoli

Here is a great article about managers becoming coaches:

https://hbr.org/amp/2019/11/the-leader-as-coach?fbclid=IwAR3b_F1t_wYU8E-rLTuVqUjjSGHCSAYEp7-6M3uq_xlT58fUGnxb3-JtDWo

We believe that managers must also be leaders (and vice-versa). They must focus upon the details and ensure that the trains run on time while also keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Part of that bigger picture is growing their team and setting everyone up for future success. From the article, “as Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in the field, defined it, skilled coaching involves ‘unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.’” This article in the Harvard Business Review is a great discussion of the acknowledgement of that shifting role of managers in the field. In our modern world, managers must become better coaches to help their teams grow – they must exercise leadership skills as well as managerial ones. The article discusses the barriers to doing this well, a couple of models to consider, and some tips to improve. It also provides some basic steps and further reading about coaching.

Here’s my favorite paragraph: “We live in a world of flux. Successful executives must increasingly supplement their industry and functional expertise with a general capacity for learning—and they must develop that capacity in the people they supervise. No longer can managers simply command and control. Nor will they succeed by rewarding team members mainly for executing flawlessly on things they already know how to do. Instead, with full institutional support, they need to reinvent themselves as coaches whose job it is to draw energy, creativity, and learning out of the people with whom they work.” Overall, excellent discussion of what managers and leaders should be and I highly recommend it. Kudos to Victor Flores for recently posting about this article. Although it’s not a recent article (originally published in late 2019), it is a great refresher about the importance of good managers.


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A Reflective Exercise to Try with a Growth Mindset Challenge

By Leah Teague


During the first few days of the ABA’s 21 day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge, we are directed to assess our grit and determine our mindset. Key phrases that resonated with me:  

  • Grit:  the Power of Passion and Perseverance (described in Dr. Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk on Grit).
  • The Power of Yet.  Professor Carol Dweck labels Growth Mindset as “the power of yet” because you believe that you can improve. She adds that people with growth mindsets are “luxuriating in the power of yet” while those with a fixed mindset are “gripped in the tyranny of now.”

Both phrases remind us to value and reward effort, strategy and progress as we evaluate our students’ current performance. Helping our students push themselves out of their comfort zones in healthy directions allows them to learn and develop in new ways.

Fear of failure and rejection can often be a barrier to new learning and a growth mindset. In Chapter 7 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we offer a reflection exercise for students in a leadership class or program designed to help them normalize failure as an acceptable aspect of learning and growing.

You’re Not Perfect and That’s Okay!

Think about a mistake you made in the last couple weeks, preferably one that is not too emotionally charged. It could be anything – a mistake you made while learning something new, maybe you misunderstood the instructions for a task at work and did it incorrectly, or maybe a social faux pas where you said something you wish you hadn’t, or you snapped at someone and regretted it later. 

  1. What happened? What were the consequences? Did you have the opportunity to correct the mistake? If so, how did it go and how did it make you feel? 
  2. Create and complete a reflection chart:

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Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leaders Through Solitude

By Caleb Bortner, Baylor Law Student


Friends,

As part of our leadership development class at Baylor Law, one of the assignments over the quarter is to read a book about leadership. Our definition of what constitutes a leadership book is broad for this purpose, so our students choose a wide variety of books, ranging from “leadership lite” (as Deborah Rhode called it) to biographies of famous leaders. The task to complete the assignment is for the students to write a short review covering the book and why someone who is interested in leadership might want to read it. So, we hope you enjoy Caleb Bortner’s review of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leaders Through Solitude by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin.

– Stephen Rispoli


In a time when most of us are alone, due to Covid-19, how can we use this solitude to benefit ourselves and our society? I chose “Lead Yourself First” because the idea of isolation strikes me as something many of us are coping with right now. So how do we turn this “negative” into a positive force in our lives? How can we harness this unfortunate life event into something positive for us all?

Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a sort of galvanizing tool to solve problems. Leaders have used solitude to bring focus without the constant background noise. Solitude brings out your natural intuition. It brings self-awareness or introspection in a way that would be impossible when surrounded by those you are leading. Time alone allows leaders to strengthen themselves using their faith or own inner strength and look at a problem from a different viewpoint. “Lead Yourself First” explored how many historical figures used solitude as a tool to create solutions.

Whether it was Ulysses S. Grant’s solitude in his tent after sickness, or Aung San Suu Kyi’s time imprisoned, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s imprisonment in Birmingham, leaders have found that time away from everyone allowed them to think. This opportunity to think, and to think deeply, allowed them to utilize the tools that made them great leaders in the first place. For Martin Luther King Jr., it galvanized his faith and resilience to keep fighting against systemic racism. Solitude gave Jane Goodall a chance to think deeply about chimpanzees and intuit a way to study them more closely. Solitude allowed Marie Curie the chance to intuit innovative experimentation techniques and conduct groundbreaking research.

In addition to the informative historical examples throughout “Lead Yourself First,” there were also stories of leaders in society today and examples of how solitude helped them. Frequently, Kethledge and Erwin focused on running as a mechanism for solitude. Not only does running create space between yourself and others, but it is also a way many people use to think through problems they are facing. Often, if stuck in a rut when you are writing or stuck with a problem, a piece of advice people will give you is to go for a walk. There is a reason for this; it allows you to place space between yourself and the problem and will enable you to think more deeply than you would if you were distracted by the electronics in your home.

Kethledge and Erwin end their book with straightforward advice about solitude and its benefits. They say that solitude works because it allows you to embrace hard thinking. It will not work if you use solitude to think on a superficial level or review old emails on the subject. Take solitude for the gift that it is. Close your office door, spread out all the documents on the matter, or allow yourself to look at your problem on a macro level and think about it from every angle you can. Kethledge and Erwin encouraged blocking off time to engage in hard thinking and solitude. They warned to use this time wisely to engage and embrace hard thinking and not just a superficial review of the issue at hand.

I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with the forced alone time we all have right now due to Covid-19. It helped me refocus my energy when I put into context all the forced solitude leaders from history have endured. They were all pillars of strength and used their time alone to create something extraordinary. I think we can all take notes from history and from “Lead Yourself First” to make our time in quarantine the most useful that we can.

– CALEB BORTNER

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Monthly Challenge: Adding Growth Mindset to Grit Leads to Progress

By Leah Teague


“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” 
– Thomas Edison

Following up on our Grit Challenge and as a companion to the ABA’s 21 day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge (which starts today), we focus on Growth Mindset, one of the five concepts we view as foundational to Leadership of Self. We will address the remaining three: feedback, failure, and resilience in future posts. Grit strengthens students’ persistence in the face of challenges they face in the demands of law school or the practice of law. As their grit improves, they both address challenges and persevere through them with greater aplomb. They likewise learn to apply grit in circumstances beyond school and career. Beyond grit, however, leaders need to learn to take risks.

Our profession is filled with risk-averse lawyers who embrace the status quo and hate to fail or be criticized. They endorse the maxim “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” These characteristics can be protective, helping us serve clients and avoiding unnecessary risk, but those same tendencies reinforce a fixed mindset. Stanford professor Carol Dweck, the leading researcher on mindset, found that a person with a self-view or mindset that their qualities and abilities are fixed or unchangeable will “want to prove [themselves] correct over and over rather than learning from [their] mistakes.

As we think about law school environment and culture, one can argue that the traditional approaches to legal education promote a fixed mindset since failure is punished and success is rewarded by grades, law review appointments, and ultimately jobs. But a student who never learns to fail—and consequently grow – is a student who may be tempted to cover up mistakes rather than own them. Lawyers who do this may find themselves facing disciplinary action or client ire. These consequences of settling into a fixed mindset heighten the importance of introducing fixed vs. growth mindset theory early in law school and teaching skills to embrace and develop a growth mindset. Helping students lean into a growth mindset both develops their intellectual curiosity and provides a better approach for dealing with adversity in law school and beyond.

Since recognizing the tendency toward a fixed mindset is fundamental to understanding the issue, we begin our coverage of growth mindset by having our students take The Mindset Quiz. We encourage you to do so as well. How “fixed” is your mindset? Next week we will share more about our development techniques for Leadership of Self fundamentals.

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Will you join the ABA 21-Day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge?

By Leah Teague


The past pandemic year has highlighted how much we all need to develop our grit and growth mindset! Making time to develop these skills, however, can be challenging. Where and how do I start?

My first exposure to the formal study of grit and growth mindset was through the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s Grit Project. We reference several of their scenarios in our textbook and use them as case studies in our leadership class. On June 2, 2021, the Grit Project is launching a 21-Day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge. We are planning to participate and hope you will too!

By registering for the challenge, we will receive daily emails with content for the 21 Days of Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge. The challenge consists of a 5-15 minute daily commitment to growing your grit through listening to TED Talks and podcasts or reading articles. The goal: to inspire and help us to “develop good habits to exercise your grit (perseverance and passion for long-term goals) and growth mindset (the belief that you can improve in your abilities).” You can do the daily activities on your own or form a Grit Group to unpack the challenges and learnings together.

The 2021 21-Day Grit and Growth Mindset Challenge kicks off on June 2 with an exciting webinar featuring Alison Levine, mountain climber and grit expert. Register for this inspiring webinar here! If you are ready to start on your own grit and growth jury, though, you do not need to wait for June 2. It’s always a good time to get grittier!

Click on the Challenge website, available now, for a preview of the 21 Days. To receive e-mail reminders to complete each part of the challenge, go to sign up. The emails start June 7, 2021.

I hope your summer is off to a great start!

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Women in Leadership: The Movement Beyond the Glass Ceiling

By Jessie Cox, Baylor Law Student


Friends,

As part of our leadership development class at Baylor Law, one of the assignments over the quarter is to read a book about leadership. Our definition of what constitutes a leadership book is broad for this purpose, so our students choose a wide variety of books, ranging from “leadership lite” (as Deborah Rhode called it) to biographies of famous leaders. The task to complete the assignment is for the students to write a short review covering the book and why someone who is interested in leadership might want to read it. So, we hope you enjoy Jessica Cox’s review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Even though Lean In has been covered extensively since it was published, we thought Jessie’s coverage of the book was a good read and thought you all might appreciate it.

– Stephen Rispoli


Sheryl Sandberg is a mother, a wife, a proponent for women’s rights, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and the first woman ever to serve on Facebook’s Board of Directors. In her 2013 bestseller, Lean In, Sandberg discusses what she’s learned about the double standards women face in the corporate workplace, relying on both on her own experience as well as analytics and research to promote a future for women that leaves inequality behind.

The crux of Sandberg’s 5-point plan presented in Lean In is to encourage women to succeed in whatever career plan they choose. While she does strongly believe that women can do everything, she recognizes that a future without inequality doesn’t require that. Instead, the focus is on creating an environment where every woman can make a choice that is best for her without feeling guilty.

“Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voices to their needs and concerns.”

Sandberg suggests that there are 5 methods women should implement on an individual level to address prejudice in the workplace:

1. SIT AT THE TABLE

Women will never be recognized as we should if we are too afraid to sit at the table. Sandberg referenced an experience in this chapter that really resonated with me. She was at a meeting when a male client walked in with two female associates. While the male, without hesitation, sat at the conference table, the two women automatically sat off to the side. As a young female in the workplace, I expect to not have a seat at the table, and that mindset is part of the problem.

Sandberg cited a statistic here that was jolting. When this book was written, only 7% of women negotiated for themselves in the workplace compared to almost 1/3rd of men. Even though most women currently in the corporate sphere did not grow up in a world where they had to fight for basic civil rights, Sandberg believes that women are still ingrained to think that they don’t deserve their successes. While men attribute success to their own hard work, women give away their successes to others – that someone helped them, or gave them a lucky break, instead of crediting their own hard work and expecting the same accolades given to men. Thanks to a century of hard work, there is now a chair waiting for women at that conference table, and we can’t be afraid to take it.

2. IT’S OK TO NOT BE LIKED BY ALL

A big part of moving past inequality is embracing change, and there will always be those that do not like change. As more women succeed in the workplace and take on leadership roles, it may mean taking a role that some believe was made for a man. However, Sandberg wants women to be confident enough in our own abilities and worth to be ok with jealousy and those that may be upset that we are succeeding.

“When you want to change things, you can’t please everyone.
If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.”

Moving into an era where women can truly do anything without feeling pressured by societal expectations involves other women being more accepting. Sandberg repeatedly emphasizes the importance of uplifting not only women that are leaders in the workplace, but also women that choose to be stay at home moms. There is no one size fits all formula.

3. EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN

Moving into an era where women can truly do anything without feeling pressured by societal expectations involves other women being more accepting. Sandberg repeatedly emphasizes the importance of uplifting not only women that are leaders in the workplace, but also women that choose to be stay at home moms. There is no one size fits all formula.

4. GET THE RIGHT PARTNER

This was the most surprising step of the plan to me because it is not an area that many people are comfortable discussing. Sandberg believes in inequality on all fronts – both at the workplace, and at home. Generally, however, even for women that work full-time corporate jobs, those women are still taking on 2x the amount of housework and 3x the amount of childcare and rearing than their male partners. Much of this is related to another ingrained mindset where we put more pressure on boys to succeed than we do girls. Sandberg suggests that truly embracing inequality for women means giving women the same time, choices, and opportunity that men have to succeed, and that starts at home.

5. SPEAK UP AGAINST PREJUDICE

Being a leader in a world where prejudice still exists means speaking out when you see something wrong. Staying silent and watching inequality happen is essentially accepting inequality for what it is, and that is not something that any woman should be okay with. The more we get people talking, the more we get people caring about making those important changes that lead to a future we deserve.

“What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
And then go do it.”

Standing up for yourself is scary. Standing up for yourself as a woman in a room full of men is even scarier. However, our ability to succeed as female leaders in the workplace is dependent on us believing in ourselves enough to be willing to confront that fear. As a young woman, I am full of self-doubt and anxiety about being able to be successful and being enough. And Sandberg really hit home for me in this regard – if I spent half the time and energy I spend on being afraid on believing in myself instead, there would be no limit to what I could achieve. If you can’t see how step the mountain is, then you can’t fear it.

I truly enjoyed reading Lean In, and highly recommend it for other women that want a refreshing and encouraging book on how to embrace your own ambition and worth to succeed as a woman and as a leader in life and in the workplace.

JESSIE COX