Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s just released book meant to encourage women to seek leadership roles, has set the social media sites on fire. But I, for one, am grateful that she has set the issue of women’s leadership front and center on the national agenda.
This is a message I have been preaching to women for well over a decade, especially to women entrepreneurs at Springboard Enterprises, a venture accelerator for women entrepreneurs in growth businesses.
Claiming our success for some reason seems to be difficult for women to do. Even the most accomplished among us, are somehow satisfied with handing out credit to everyone else, and just ignoring our own. One example I often cite when conducting our boot camp training sessions is that of a former Springboard Alum. This woman got up to give her first elevator pitch in the training session on her biomedical company explaining quite clearly what her device did, how she would market it and the size of her potential market and how she would generate revenue. She never mentioned her own qualifications. This was Mae Jemison!
Had Dr. Mae Jemison opened her presentation like this: “My name is Mae Jemison, I am a physician and an astronaut and the first black woman who traveled into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992,” she would have had everybody’s attention. She would have established immediate credibility. She would have “leaned in” instead of leaned back.
I hasten to say the Dr. Mae Jemison is a successful entrepreneur, and in 2012 DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), awarded her “100 Year Starship” program with a seed funding grant to support the planning of the next 100 years of interplanetary travel. It is a remarkable accomplishment for a woman to be chosen to head this global initiative among space scientists, astronauts, humanitarians, educators and global leaders. And this is just one of her long list of recognitions of her leadership.
People often ask, What is the most important thing women need to learn to effectively raise capital for their companies? Without question, we must learn to “Lean In” on our accomplishments, trust the confident sound of our own voices and engender confidence among the listeners and investors. While there are many other essential attributes to being a successful leader, ‘Leaning In” is an essential first step in establishing the leadership women in business and entrepreneur needs to project.