Leaning back vs. Leaning in

women business owners

I can be MISERABLE to travel with because I’m so go-go-go.

I feel so bad for my favorite Irishman sometimes.

Like last fall when we landed at Gatwick airport.

Carolyn Herfurth | Business Coach for Women Business Owners
I was so busy charging through, trying to catch the very first train into the city… that I jumped the gun and we ended up on the wrong train. Only to realize it as we zoomed along…

Right on past our station stop. 😫

Even though I talk my face off about how hustle isn’t always the answer to winning in business… sometimes I still fall into pushy patterns in my personal life.

And it’s not like I blame and beat myself up about this (that’s not productive) but it’s something to be aware of. #growthopportunity

I know I’m not alone here — lots of powerful, intelligent women fall into this trap.

We’re told we have to “lean in,” like that popular book says.

(I’ve not read it, full disclosure, but the concept is in action all over our culture. You don’t have to read a book on something to be able to see it at work in the world.)


This stuff sounds so empowering! So positive!

And it is. It can be.

But it’s sneaky… because there’s a balance.

Leaning in, and leaning back.

I was leaning WAYYY too far forward with my darling Irishman that day.

Charging ahead, no-holds-barred, outta’ my way, I’m a New Yorker and I’m not going to wait for the next train, dammit.

But if I had leaned back first, we wouldn’t have wasted time going all the way to Victoria Station — and then spending an extra $70 for an Uber to get to our hotel.

It’s the same way in our business.

The guilt we can create in our heads about any form of leaning back… it’s insane.

We rush, rush, rush. Heads down. Let’s go.

But pause and allow for strategy…and… visioning? We’ll do that in the itty bitty gaps we leave in our schedule. We got all this stuff to accomplish!

I believe it’s a reaction as women living in the XY Economy. (Which I’ve written about before.)

Many of us put so much pressure on ourselves to show up and compete. And we get trapped in this identity we’ve built around pushing and launching. Around “leaning in” 24/7.

So we can win.
So we can feel in control.
So we can prove that we’re worthy.

But leaning back doesn’t mean being helpless, timid or incapable.

It doesn’t mean being out of control, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean losing.

In fact, quite the opposite.

It means trusting your instincts — even when it’s outside of your usual behavior. Not letting the default wiring take over.

At Gatwick, it would’ve meant slowing down for an extra 20 seconds. And that’s why I was annoyed with myself afterwards. I let pushy, rush-rush mode win, and it cost me, because sometimes it’s not all about me racing to my next destination.

Fortunately, the cost wasn’t too high.

(My Irishman has only teased me about it a half dozen times. 😘)

But when these patterns crop up in business, they can be big-deal-dangerous.

They’re one of the core causes of burnout for too many talented businesswomen.

It’s the trap of pushing so hard in business.

“I’m in total control. I’ve got this. I’m steering this ship, dammit.”

But sometimes you need to lean back… because a *pause* is the best thing to do.

It makes you me a much better travel buddy… and a more effective leader and visionary.

Because more often than not, the further we lean back, the better we see the bigger picture.

It’s not a replacement for leaning in. They complement each other.

Leaning back is giving yourself permission to slow down and be strategic.

Before you lean in and execute.


Are you taking time to *pause* and lean back before rushing in?

Leaning back is the very FIRST thing I do with every single client. It’s why I insist my clients take stock of their situation and assets before we make a single plan that’ll require them to lean in. Works like a charm!

btw — I’ll get to test my “leaning back” skills on our next flight into Gatwick in February. We’ll see how I do! 😂

Posted In: Thought Leadership