Lean In vs. Lean Back

You can’t get ahead by sitting back. The only way to get ahead is to stay aggressive and lean in.

Everyone wants to to be acknowledged for their hard work. Everyone wants to be heard. Communication is the key to success; if you don’t speak up, no one will know what you’re thinking.

But it also pays to take a step back and observe your surroundings. Sometimes we can get so focused that we forget that the world quickly evolves. Leaning back allows you to get a fresh perspective on things that are changing, inside and outside your expertise.

Seeking a name for yourself and seeking knowledge of self should be concurrent goals. You always need to be open to both professional and personal opportunities for growth.

Where you are now is the result of the actions you’ve taken to date. Maybe you need to lean back and reevaluate or lean in and accelerate.

Shift gears by all means necessary.



To do lists are great. So is a three year and five year plan. But don’t get hung up in focusing on the act of doing those things. Get going now, create immediacy, and learn from your mistakes.

Execution, work, is really all that matters. This leads to other great opportunities, unplanned. Specify some goals, outline some dreams, and then dive right in.

Just don’t spend too much time planning and over thinking. There’s no better time than taking action now.

As you start your post-HBS career, look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build your skills, not your resume. Evaluate what you can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work. Take a sales quota, a line role, an ops job. Don’t plan too much, and don’t expect a direct climb. If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career. – Sheryl Sandberg’s career advice to Harvard Business students (via Quartey)