Illustration: Jason Schneider
By Stanley Bing
October 10, 2013

With so much of the workforce now firmly committed to Leaning In, I thought I might take a few moments to counsel the opposite strategy. I’ve been pursuing it for decades, and it’s worked very well for me. I believe you can Lean Out and still Have It All.

Before we start, let’s look at the benefits of Leaning In, which I would define as aggressive careerism pursued while attempting to be a decent human being, a terrific parent, and a fully loaded party animal with excellent relationships at home and abroad. There may be people capable of accomplishing all that, but early on I determined that I was not one of them. For me, it was like trying to fit into a pair of pants whose waist size I had outgrown. I could almost close the thing, but not quite, and portions of me hung out the sides in a manner both unattractive and uncomfortable.

Still, the advantages of Leaning In are many. They include promotions, all the power you can seize, and the chance to win valuable toys and prizes. On the other hand, there are obstacles, including significant others, who like to eat dinner with somebody; children, who forget who you are if you don’t bring them presents while they are awake; and executives who will exploit anybody who will enable them to work less at things they don’t want to do. Also, it’s difficult to take a nap while Leaning In. You almost have to lean back, especially if you drool.

Finally, I have always found it hard to figure out where to stash the legion of nannies, gardeners, and other live-in domestics necessary to support the infrastructure of a Lean In existence. You need a big apartment.

The good news is that you can build a solid career, have sustaining relationships, and enjoy life to the fullest by Leaning Out. You just have to be good at it.

First, you must commit yourself to a schedule that permits a proper personal life. Any job that makes that impossible must be Leaned Out of immediately.

Second, you must dress well. Looking good obviates 25% of the necessity to Lean In all the time.

Third, you must exceed all expectations in the performance of your duties. This does not mean, necessarily, doing a great job at everything. It simply means what it says: exceeding expectations. What are those? Ascertain them. Then exceed them. Like, if your boss wants a five-page document, give her six. If she wants a three-year projection of potential revenue growth, give her a look at the subject five years out. Stuff like that. Of course, exceeding expectations means managing them. The art of reducing expectations to a reasonable level is what separates the Outer Leaners from the Inner Leaners. And if you occasionally need to Lean In for a little while to get the job done, suck it up and do so. The sooner you get to it, the sooner you’ll get over it.

Fourth, get into senior management as fast as you can. Leaning Out is harder when you’re just Starting Out.

Fifth, always take your vacations. If they can’t get along without you, so much the better. I know a guy who spends weeks at a time on his sailboat. He’s outlived a host of leaners far more tipped forward than he.

Lastly, always push for more money and more promotions. There’s no reason all those good things should go to the Inner Leaners. Your Lean Out style is what got you to the precipice of greatness! Embrace it!

And all right, at the end of the day, you probably won’t get to be the CEO as, with a last burst of speed, one of the Innies puts on a final kick and passes the Outies in the stretch. So what? Uneasy leans the head that wears the crown, you know.

Follow Stanley Bing at stanleybing.com and on Twitter at @thebingblog.

This story is from the October 28, 2013 issue of Fortune.

You May Like

EDIT POST