I had the opportunity to meet Sheryl when she came for a talk at LinkedIn. Her book had just released and she was sharing her perspective with Reid in a fireside chat. She imparted her wisdom about the power of Leaning in confidently to make our place in the professional world. We ran Lean In circles at LinkedIn and later I lead the WIN (Women In North America) at eBay Advertising. It’s a joy to witness women empathize with each other to conquer their fears and emerge out as confident individuals. The world is indeed a better place with confident women in all walks of life professional and personal.
Alongside these worthy women, I have also had the opportunity to know several compassionate men in professional and personal circles. Men who have mentored me when I fell short, encouraged me when I lost confidence, guided me when I got lost, collaborated with me to conquer challenging deadlines, guarded me when I felt weak, followed my lead when they needed guidance, and approached me for mentor ship and help when they needed some. These are the men who lead, follow and partner with us and treat us as equals. Together we become a stronger team.
It’s the law of nature. A pendulum tends to swing to the other extreme before reaching its equilibrium position.As we women step up as the creators and leaders, I hope we take a moment to find our equilibrium without feeling the need to swing to other extreme. I hope we Lean in with the men, not necessarily against them. I hope we Lean in with Compassion, not arrogance. It’s not just for them, we need compassion to be successful ourselves!
Here is a simple story of how lack of compassion converted an avid fan into a passionate critique and possibly a strong competitor for a budding women entrepreneur.
We are a large group of friends from school days. For a decade or so we have maintained a tradition to reconnect at a New Year’s party. This year we opted for the Instant Karma party. The dance floor was crowded, with people dressed in ties and high heels. We were busy giggling and dancing, when a lady security guard came to one of the men in the party and announced “You are out”. I asked her “why”. Without providing any explanation she waved to a male guard; who then came to push my friend out. She then pointed to a group of girls and announced “they complained”.
A few of us approached those girls. “We are all couples. Trying to unwind. Not trying to hurt anybody….the floor is crowded…sorry but nothing that hurt you was intentional”
The only visible guy in that group stated “Yes. it seems like a misunderstanding”
Right then one of the girls started cursing us and shouted “I will show you who is the boss”
“Sorry for whatever happened to you. We are all couples and these guys are gentlemen” I said
While the upset girl stood there with an attitude, her male friend trying to calm her down; I felt someone squeezing my arm so tight, it hurt. It was the lady guard shouting on my face “You supporting him, you are out too”
I tried breaking free. “Oh you are trying to hit me. You will pay the price” the lady guard announced as she started dragging me out.
No rationale. No conversation. One upset girl complains to another girl guard. A verdict is passed and the quest to prove “Who is the boss” starts.
The person being accused wrongfully was the one who had suggested the party. He made numerous attempts to contact Bhavini Joshi, the organizer. As responsive as she was when the conversations were about buying tickets and sponsoring events, she refused to step up when it came time to show customer empathy.
Our group decided to walk out and partied at our hotel instead. In this group was a business man who often sponsors such events, an event coordinator who is thinking of planning an alternate party next year, several influential technology and business leaders who pledged to never support Bhavini’s events again, and avid fans for years who have now deleted her number forever. Could be a heavy cost for allowing that girl to Lean In, not just to overcome her own fears, but to use it as an attempt to instill undue fear on others; a cost for empowering the lady guard to Lean not with confidence, but with arrogance; a cost for not stepping upto your responsibilities as a leader.
Till date we are all clueless on what triggered the power quest or the point they were trying to prove. What they did prove though was that wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness; and that friends stick together in thick and thin!.
I am Leaning In with this post, hoping that this incident can be a reminder for us to deal with life situations confidently and compassionately. The disturbing thing that night was not that we had to leave the party, but a comment made by a random spectator “All that for doing nothing dude…next time maybe you should do something!”
Compassion is a women's biggest virtue; let's not make it a man’s biggest sin.
Cheers for a prosperous and compassionate 2017!