April 10, 2013

"Why Thatcher Wouldn’t Succeed in Our ‘Lean In’ Culture."

By Amity Shlaes.
As [Sheryl] Sandberg laboriously notes [in her bestseller "Lean In"], Harvard Business School, which already famously focused on teamwork and consensus, has lately emphasized teamwork even more. It’s hard to imagine Thatcher (“Defeat? I do not recognize the word”) thriving at HBS.

The result of the collaborative culture is that corporations or government institutions focus intensely on internal culture and pour their energy into achieving minuscule policy changes relating to workplace efficiency, gender or race. The great victory with which future Thatcher biographers are likely to open their accounts is her winning back the Falkland Islands from the Argentine junta. The great victory with which Sandberg opens her book was getting Google Inc. (GOOG) to establish reserved parking for pregnant women.
IN THE COMMENTS: MayBee asks: "What is with this annoying attempt to get people to use the phrase 'lean in'?" I've been irked by this too. Obviously, Sandberg was trying to sell her book and came up with something she wanted to make into a meme, but how did she get so many media people to adopt it?

Why does the meme seem useful? Is it some subliminal effect? I see the connotations of slimming down and also being lazy (like when you're leanin' on the shovel/mop instead of working).

I suspect that media people are mostly just lamely grasping at ways to make the same old material seem new. I'm guilty of spreading the meme too, since I put this post up, but I have actually been avoiding "Lean In" stuff. I fell for it this time because of the Margaret Thatcher + Amity Shlaes prod.

ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: "I enjoy watching a woman 'lean in.'" And: "Lean In while wearing a low cut blouse, and you're sure to get a promotion." Is that the subliminal sustenance people are receiving?!

80 comments:

kentuckyliz said...

Sandberg is only a CFO...glorified bookkeeper...women's work.

She might have some cred if she weren't so privileged and if she got a CEO job and succeeded in it.

She thinks she's a high achiever but she is like any other business chick working in the girls corners of the business world: accounting, marketing, PR, HR.

MayBee said...

What is with this annoying attempt to get people to use the phrase "lean in"?

EMD said...

What is with this annoying attempt to get people to use the phrase "lean in"?

We have already discarded "lean in" as passé and over.

It came up a lot during our internal re-branding discussions as a potential employee "behavior."

X said...

The great victory with which Sandberg opens her book was getting Google Inc. (GOOG) to establish reserved parking for pregnant women.

in a world where the word hero gets thrown around entirely too much, Sandberg is a hero.

EMD said...

I enjoy watching a woman 'lean in.'

tits.

rhhardin said...

The idea is to stamp out men.

RichardS said...

Is group work always a good idea?
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/06/why_a_great_individual_is_bett.html

kentuckyliz said...

Lean In while wearing a low cut blouse, and you're sure to get a promotion.

rhhardin said...

If you want inspired work and generosity, hire a man.

Nonapod said...

WHat's MSNBCs slogan? Foward? Or Lean Forward? I can't keep track of these asinine progressive slogans.

EMD said...

I'll take leadership over lean-in-ship any day.

edutcher said...

As they say in Oz, which is starting to look a little euro in some people's eyes, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down".

The union culture hates achievers.

X said...

if you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean.

ricpic said...

Thatcher's great victory was against freedom despisers and it was, of course, temporary, because freedom is always despised by the establishment in a dying country. It is why we here in the United States will have to eat the complete shit sandwich.

MayBee said...

Thanks for your comment, and I agree. "Pitch in" is a real phrase, but they don't want to use that for some reason.
"lean forward" was an Obama thing, so maybe that motivates all these pundits,

Or maybe the pundits are all just too insular. Too much of their own group. They think they are so fetch.

kentuckyliz said...

From the comments at the linked article, which had a list of Maggie quotes:

"I got more out of her quotes than Sheryl Sandberg's leaning in."

EMD said...

Lean-in is another attempt to feminize corporate culture.

Steve Jobs made Apple great. Yeah, he was an amazing asshole, too. I think that's part of the equation that people want to discard, but end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm a dinosaur. A product of my upbringing in the Army, but the leadership styles I like are ones where people take responsibility and try to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete data, and implement them vigorously.

I gag at the idea of endless group grope consensus building meetings where the "hoped" for outcome is topour their energy into achieving minuscule policy changes relating to workplace efficiency, gender or race

Mitchell the Bat said...

Lean in? Doing the Hokey Pokey was the first thing that occurred to me.

Nonapod said...

The war between the individualist and the collectivist is as old as our species, the struggle between being a good "team player" versus being an effective leader or mavrick innovator, conformity versus individuality and so forth.

Roger J. said...

go to despair.com for an iconoclastic take on modern euphemisms. I love their writers.

The Drill SGT said...

And yeah, I went to B-School (Irvine and UCLA), but my specilization area was operations research, not consensus building.

BDNYC said...

Modern American women are so spoiled. Not satisfied with having disproportionate opportunities, supposedly to compensate for discrimination or something, they now whine and obsess over "having it all" and "leaning in" and so forth, because they boys still have it so good. You see, modern American women need to be paid just like their peers, even if they have to spend less time at work because they're also supermoms who take their kids to karate class or soccer practice or the doctor ... or decide to take a sabbatical or maternity leave.

It's all about rigging the game and exploiting PC corporate culture to advance one's career. The boys can make the money, the women are doing important self-esteem work, and lord knows that's good for everyone because unhappy mothers might drown their babies in the bathtub.

MadisonMan said...

Would Ronald Reagan get very far in today's Republican Party? Would JFK or FDR or WJC get very far in today's Democratic Party?

Politicians are a product of their times. Times change.

Sheryl Sandberg is trying to make everything relate to a book she's shilling.

AprilApple said...

"lean in" is like "lean forward" which is like Rachel Maddow which is like MSNBC which is like the Democrat party.

Hagar said...

I think a reincarnated Mrs. Thatcher would do just fine. She would just ignore them and do it her way as she did in her time before.

Anglelyne said...

MayBee: "lean forward" was an Obama thing, so maybe that motivates all these pundits,

Some wag has noted that "lean forward" can describe the same movement as "bend over".

mccullough said...

I thought lean in was the baseball metaphor. Lean in to the strike zone and take one for the team.

Anyway, these days, I think bend over is more appropriate

AJ Lynch said...

http://www.parade.com/2340/lynnsherr/chelsea-clinton-leans-in/

Chip Ahoy said...

It invokes an image of people sitting at a round table leaning in for tighter consultation so they become face to face to face to face to face but can only have eye contact with one other person whereupon you slide a breath mint forward toward the person you're mind-warping and when they fail to take it push forward a tooth brush and a tube of toothpaste and silently insist this closeness will be mitigated.

khesanh0802 said...

I consider the group think at HBS one of its greatest weaknesses. Leads to an absence of real leadership. If you read the alumni magazine at all you will see that it most frequently celebrates those who show individual initiative, not group effort.

Tibore said...

Screw "lean in". That's slouching. Real leaders stand tall. Standing tall and listening to subordinates is not mutually exclusive, and a real leader doesn't have to surrender to cheap theatricality to garner comment from the team.

gadfly said...

The management of businesses in the world of Harvard Business School is inventing the next "new paradigm" to solve all the discovered problems of a business and those yet to be found. In truth, consultants on the ground find themselves in a quandary, because the technological aspects of a business are above their pay grade or that of the current management. So the answer is to pull out the latest HBS pamphlet and pretend to install the technique.

A few years ago I interviewed a very successful consultant in order to obtain some insight into the consulting business. He told me that his bill rate was over $300.00 an hour. I asked him, in his own words, to define a great consultant. With tongue in cheek, he told this story. “When a client asks a great consultant ‘What time is it?’ the consultant will ask to see the client’s watch and ask ‘What time do you want it to be?”’ When I asked, “Did the consultant give the watch back to the lient?” He smiled and said “That depends!”

FWBuff said...

When I hear or see "Lean in", it makes me think of the following:

1. It's too crowded in here.
2. I'm off balance and about to fall over.
3. I'm slumping because I'm bored or tired.

None of these is positive, especially in business.

Marshal said...

The great victory with which future Thatcher biographers are likely to open their accounts is her winning back the Falkland Islands from the Argentine junta.

Wresting the UK's economic fate from the Unions intent on destroying the economy so they could be placed in charge of it was her great victory. Her biographers may focus on Argentina but it would be a mistake.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Leaning suggests dependence, which implies that you are temporarily or permanently disabled.

Paddy O said...

"Would Ronald Reagan get very far in today's Republican Party?"

Arguably, he didn't get very far in then's Republican Party.

Bureaucrats get far from within. Real leaders get people to follow them, and change the party by doing so.

Thatcher would do well today because people always will follow leaders with strong visions, character, and strength of will. Who is the last Republican nominee to show the same kind of command?

Well, I guess there have been some nominees with one of those characteristics, but not all three, which is why the wishy-washy won the nominations.

bagoh20 said...

"The great victory with which Sandberg opens her book was getting Google Inc. (GOOG) to establish reserved parking for pregnant women."

I would expect that most businesses would simply do this as soon as someone brought up the need for it. This is an accomplishment like asking for a glass of water and getting it. Heroic.

Chuck66 said...

MadisonMan, leftwing hero Paul Wellstone was fiercely pro-traditional marriage. He would be rejected by today's Democrat party.

Truman was just about to nationalize the railroads and then draft the striking railroad workers. He definitely would be rejected by today's Democrat party.

JFK molested an 18 year old government employee. He would be just fine in today's Democrat party.

Larry J said...


khesanh0802 said...
I consider the group think at HBS one of its greatest weaknesses.


As the late Ben Rich wrote in his book, Skunk Works,

"2/3 HBS = BS"

virgil xenophon said...

@kentuckyliz/

IIRC the "nail" aphorism is originally of Japanese cultural origin..

Alex said...

Maggie Thatcher will be remembered for 3 things:

* breaking the intransigent UK unions
* winning back the Falkland Islands
* standing up to the USSR

furious_a said...

where the "hoped" for outcome is topour their energy into achieving minuscule policy changes...

...mught be apt for a traditional mfg environment, but not an industry where markets and products we take for granted now didn't exist, say, five years ago.

bagoh20 said...

My business is full of heroic women - they ask for stuff every day and get it. I can't fight them - they are so powerful and simply overwhelm me with their radiant righteousness. Just yesterday, one asked me for a day off to take her child to the doctor. I tried to resist and fight her, but she simply would not back down. I stood on my desk and demanded that she withdraw her request or I shall smite her. She drew her womanly sword of equality and cut me down in one powerful blow, and I crumpled on the floor mumbling "yes, yes, just let me live fair lady."

Am I not heroic myself for at least trying? Do I get no participation trophy?

Alex said...

bagoh - you should have gone Scrooge on her. Or at least "no soup for you".

virgil xenophon said...

Riiiigggght....MacArthur didn't devise the concept of the Inchon landing, a committee did.

(In fact, the above is an almost perfect counter-factual to
the HBS approach in that MacArthurs plan was strongly opposed by the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff--a plan that history now records as one of the most brilliant, innovative military decisions/moves of all time..)

MadisonMan said...

JFK molested an 18 year old government employee.

Lemme guess. Someone's selling a book.

Chuck66 said...

MadisonMan....the book came out last summer. I believe the woman.

Michael Haz said...

"Consesus is the lack of leadership" - Margaret Thatcher

Lady Thatcher also said this:

"Ah consensus … the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner 'I stand for consensus'?'"

Lean-in is a stupid concept, Harvard or no.

Synova said...

Thatcher was a chemist? What year must that have been? Way, way, way before any push to get women in STEM fields and fuss about how the field wasn't encouraging them enough. And science is about what you can do and what you know and what you can prove... not about your feelings and not about consensus... and you're working with all the ADHD and aspie men doing real work in the world in a way that's not focused on your possession of a vagina.

Honest to dog... if an outside force was attempting to sequester women in occupations that focused so wholly on their womanhood it would be called chauvinism... but they do it to themselves and call it feminism.

bagoh20 said...

I love my job. I've worked my whole life to get it. Pretty much my only responsibility is making decisions that nobody else wants to, or that nobody wants someone else to, so they bring them to me.

I ask the opinion of others who know more about the issues at hand. I weigh their opinions and pick the course that makes the most sense. It's really amazing that I thought up this strategy on my own. I plan on getting it patented. I call it "bossing", and you can NOT use the strategy without paying me a royalty, so get out those checkbooks, and enjoy the incline, bitches!

Susan Stewart Rich said...

In my humble yet nonetheless correct opinion, the best way to get promoted (men and women alike)is speak up when you know what you are talking about and shut up when you don't. Oh, and know a lot. I've never seen Justice Ginsburg lean in and I certainly haven't heard her raise her voice (very much). Success at the very top is mostly about what you know and how much you know and timely letting people know how much you know.

virgil xenophon said...

bagoh20@11:38

"bitcheZ"

FIFY

Chip S. said...

Over the past couple of days the NPR reports on Thatcher have upgraded her from "controversial" to "divisive".

If they don't bury her soon she'll reach "dictatorial" status.

Michael Haz said...

Ever see Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton lean-in?

Ha! No.

furious_a said...

...establish reserved parking for pregnant women."

"And if there has to be some [achievement], they prefer the.kind that cannot be easily quantified -- "the achievement of Winnie Mandela", for example."...PJ O'Rourke

furious_a said...

Thatcher was a chemist? What year must that have been?

Her tutor at Oxford was a woman, as well.

furious_a said...

"Consesus is the lack of leadership"

Ironically, turned out of office by her own party for running roughshod over the boys. Her kind of leadership has a shelf life.

Jim said...

Depending on your perspective, one person's "lean in" is another person's "bend over."

Inga said...

Bagoh, that was very upstanding of you, may your incline be mighty.

garage mahal said...

If they don't bury her soon she'll reach "dictatorial" status.

Thatcher did have a soft spot for dictators.

Amartel said...

"Lean in" culture rewards small ball with big congratulations.

Thatcher did not play small ball.

Roger J. said...

Garage--in what way did Dame Thatcher has a soft spot for dictators?

Alex said...

Pinochet.

Alex said...

A socialist celebrates the death of Margaret Thatcher

Roger J. said...

and yes, I did read the mondoweiss.net article and found it not very convincing.

Chip S. said...

Thatcher did have a soft spot for dictators.

As usual, you have no idea what you're talking about.

Thatcher praised Pinochet for leaving office voluntarily after losing the election he called. Please identify the other dictators who did this.

Try to comprehend why it's a good idea to encourage dictators to surrender power rather than to punish them for doing so.

Amartel said...

"Thatcher did have a soft spot for dictators."

Construct a sentence including the words "dictator" and "Thatcher."

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Garage has a soft spot too, its in the space between his ears.

Bitchtits Mahal is to Lady Thatcher as dogshit is too soft serve ice cream.

Which Lady Thatcher had a small role in the development of, certainly more than Manbearpig's role in the development of the internet.

Anyone who uses the phrase "lean in" other than for mockery purposes is a complete fucking idiot.

Sigivald said...

What the hell does Harvard Business School have to do with political leadership ability?

Being middle-to-upper management is not even close to the same job.

(I am no glorifier of The Leader as a principle, but plainly so long as we have political organizations they'll be practically necessary, simply because of how we monkeys operate.

Thus, who the hell cares if Thatcher - a demonstrably capable, perhaps brilliant, leader - would do well at HBS?

One could with equal invalidity take that as a devastating critique of Harvard.)

garage mahal said...

Bitchtits Mahal is to Lady Thatcher as dogshit is too soft serve ice cream.

Unfunny, unoriginal, nonsensical, and butchered English. Pretty much par for the course for you.

edutcher said...

The trolls spread all the rumors; if they don't discredit her now, Lady Thatcher will live on like John Paul II and Reagan.

traditionalguy said...

Leaners are the Washington Generals of the group being lead. They are the designated losers ad never try to win. They are the WWF losers in fake wrestling matches. In jiu-jitsu are the always off balance throwees.

Every leader needs such losers/ leaners to make him or her appear powerful.

Obama has his Biden.

Now, go learn to lose for the group's leader and pretend you enjoy it.

sydney said...

"I enjoy watching a woman 'lean in.'" And: "Lean In while wearing a low cut blouse, and you're sure to get a promotion." Is that the subliminal sustenance people are receiving?!

Yes. I have not read any of the "Lean In," media memes. I have only seen headlines, links, etc. From those, I had the vague notion that the concept involved success for women. I had assumed it meant just what you described - lean in close and talk softly so men have to lean closer to you and your breasts to hear. Ha! Why did I think that? I was reading a Tolstoy novel in which he described a female character this way the first time I saw a "Lean In" reference.

sydney said...

Or no, maybe it wasn't Tolstoy. It was Gatsby! Daisy is described that way.

HA said...

Given that Sandberg is so obsessed about carrying a torch for feminism, why would any man want to work for her?

SOJO said...

Falklands weren't really much more impressive than a Google parking space.

Yes, I'm serious. The UK sending a bunch of warships over on a slow weeks-long ride to fight over some bitchy little islands. Ridiculous. Stupid display over nothing.

And yes, I'm more or less a Thatcher fan. Nevertheless, the Falklands were stupid.



SOJO said...

Okay, just googled. 255 UK soldiers died in the Falklands.

For what? Really, for what? It's not like it was WW2.

In 2013, does it matter one freaking bit? Does anyone care what it was about? Could it possibly make up for the lives lost and the families devastated? No. It doesn't.

Google parking space wins.

MCD said...

When Margaret Thatcher first came to power she was looked down upon by English and American toffs for being a grocer's daughter. Now she is scorned for not being a 21st century feminist.
You don't have to agree with everything Thatcher did to recognize that she accomplished a great deal. "Lean in," to her, would be a time-wasting distraction.
She didn't whine about her humble beginnings. She didn't demand attention because it was time for Britain to elect a woman to even things out.
She just stood up and did it.
The problem with feminism today is that it has no use for women who are not preoccupied with a very narrow ideology.
I admire Margaret Thatcher, and I wonder sometimes how many talented women are being kicked to the curb by self-designated feminists.