What Does “Lean In” Mean?

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

I always thought colloquial expressions were funny things because it depends on who is saying them and what the context is. We use them every day, but do we really know the meanings behind them? Take the expression ‘lean in,’ for example. It has both a literal and figurative meaning, but it goes even further beyond that.

I’ll go over the origin, meaning, and proper usage of the phrase so you know how to use it properly.

So, What Is the ‘Lean In’ Meaning?

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The commonly used phrase “lean in” is actually a colloquial expression, and it simply means the act of making a good effort to attain a goal you have or gain a competitive advantage at work or in a game.

What Does ‘Lean In’ Mean in Business?

You can find the phrase used by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, in her popular book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” In it, you’ll find that she argues women should take more of an active role in their professional lives, and not be afraid to “lean in” to opportunities for advancement and leadership. She wants you to ‘lean in’ to business and give it your all.

Origin of the Phrase Lean In

Lean In Ngram
Lean in usage trend.

I’m not entirely sure what the origin of this colloquial expression is; Google didn’t give me much to go on. But it can definitely be traced back to Sandberg’s own experiences in the corporate world. As a young woman rising through the ranks of various companies, she noticed that many of her female colleagues were not assertive enough in their careers and that this was holding them back.

She began to use the phrase “lean in” to describe the attitude and approach that she believed would help women succeed in the workplace. It’s a cool book; you should check it out.

How to Properly Use the Phrase Lean In

The proper usage of “lean in” is as a verb or noun phrase, usually in the context of professional or leadership development. The phrase implies assertive action and taking initiative.

Some good examples would be:

  • I’m leaning in to this opportunity and presenting my proposal to the executive team.
  • It’s important to lean in to the conversation and make sure that your ideas are heard.

Examples of ‘Lean In’ in a Sentence?

  • Just take my advice and lean in to the idea of what we’re trying to achieve.
  • Lean in to the work, and it’ll pay off when your company makes its first million.

What Is Another Term for Lean In?

  • See to it
  • Handle it
  • Give it your all
  • Move in on

But I’d like to note that the phrase “lean in” doesn’t mean pushing other people out of the way to get ahead. The whole idea behind “leaning in” is to actively engage in the pursuit of your goals, not to be passive or hesitant. It’s about being bold and proactive, having the confidence to raise your hand and speak up in a world that might otherwise overlook you.

Literal Meaning of the Expression Lean In

It’s as simple as it sounds. Lean in means to literally lean in. If you were on a sports team, and the coach called all players to huddle together, he might say, “Lean in!” I was on a plane once with my husband, and his little screen wasn’t working, so I told him to lean in and watch on mine. Make sense?

Lean In to the Expression

So, there you have it. Now you should have an understanding of the true meaning of the expression ‘lean in.’ But know that it can also be used in a literal sense. Just be clear in the context surrounding the phrase if you’re writing it.

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