Years ago, with a cohort of colleagues, I attended a Leadership Development programme in Tanzania. An invaluable opportunity to reflect on what was really important to us and where we wanted to go while working to improve the facilities at a remote Masai village school, in order to make education more accessible. For many people that went through that programme, it made us realise that rather than Lean In to the organisation we were in, or continue to climb the traditional Corporate ladder, we wanted to Lean Out, even if just for a while. Periods of reflection can have that effect.
Sheryl Sandberg's public first step to the Lean In Circle, a format we have been running for a few months now and will continue to run for the foreseeable future, was her TED talk Why we have so few women leaders? Whilst still a challenge for most women, opportunities to advance in corporate life are generally improving here in the UK thanks to Sheryl and the work of others like the 30% Club, the Davies Review and the women themselves that continue to climb the ladder and forge a path.
However the model of large corporate behemoths that rule the world from their glass-floored Executive offices and deign to treat their employees just well enough to earn a positive employee engagement score are surely numbered. Startup is an anagram of upstart. Upstart individuals and companies are having a bigger influence on how we live, work, communicate and do business than ever before, particularly in developing countries. Think of the impact of Social, or self-published, media on modern life, corporate governance and how we do business. Political uprisings have been organised through Twitter, money can now be transferred by mobile phone without the need for a bank account, news is broken first on social media and then through organised channels. The world is getting flatter.
Leaning out and forging your own path is, for many, the only way to truly play to their strengths and find happiness, health and wellbeing. Going freelance, contracting or starting your own business is sometimes where you end up when you really evaluate what you need to be happy and feel that you are doing something worthwhile. That's why Stilettos Network is launching Lean Out.