Do you use the expression “lean in[to] [something]”? Do you know what it means? I have noticed this expression become more common in English over the past few years. I find this intriguing since the creation of a new phrasal / prepositional verb is not so common.
“Lean In” is the title of feminist icon and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s self-empowerment book, published in 2015, which caused a sensation, though her message has since lost some of its gloss. Sandberg did not invent the expression but she certainly helped to popularise it. What precisely does it mean?
Merriam-Webster has a Words We’re Watching: ‘Lean in’ page, where they discusss the origin and meaning of the expression. They consider it an interesting neologism but not yet sufficiently consolidated to merit an entry in the main dictionary. (That begs the question, How much evidence do they need?)
Here are some examples of current webpage titles for content that includes the expression “leaning into it”:
- Finding Your Podcasting Style And Leaning Into It
- Leaning Into Discomfort for Growth
- How Leaning Into Your Anxiety Can Help You Manage It
- Trump acts like he knows he’s losing — and he’s leaning into it (October 2020)
- Lean into it! Turn struggling into your best friend
In my own words, I infer that this expression means facing up to something difficult or unpleasant and turning it to your advantage. With this in mind, I am calling your attention to this expression at the end of the holiday period, as we face up to a challenging new academic year.
Numerous “lean in” messages of encouragement have appeared in Welcome back! letters at the start of the school year, particularly in the USA:
- Letters to Loyola: Welcome Back to Campus
We are going to lean in with empathy, especially for those with whom we disagree.
- Supplying a School Year With Hope and Caution
The school will provide enhanced health and wellness services again next year, including a second school nurse and a counselor to help the school lean in to socioemotional needs.
- Principal’s Message
Our staff have always led with their hearts to lean in and be all in when it comes to understanding who their students are and their direct needs.
- Hillsborough school teachers, officials aware of COVID apprehension for new year
If […] we need to regroup and make adjustments, we’ll lean in and work with our local medical experts to make different decisions when faced with that.
At the start of the academic year, we wish all Tradiling readers interesting challenges over the coming months, with plenty of useful “leaning in”!