04/01/2013 11:52 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2013

7 Critical 'Lean In' Lessons for Young Women

Stop. Playing. Small.

The world needs you to take up more space.

Truthfully, I've been reluctant to read Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In. Despite Oprah's heralding of the book as the new feminist manifesto, I have been most content to read reviews and listen to various sound bytes. As much as I proudly wave the flag of neo-feminist millennial professional enthusiasm, I am a natural cynic in certain ways.

That said, an unexpected and illuminating email exchange with a long-time friend and mentor this past weekend sparked my purchase of Lean In and catalyzed me to share critical leadership lessons that have transformed my own life. Her email simultaneously made me furious and melted my heart. With honesty and tenderness, she explained that what she wanted to learn at this moment in her life was something that I could only teach her: how to be bigger.

Let me be clear, the art of taking up space does not begin gracefully. What Lean In clearly articulates is the truth, that many women self-select out of extraordinary opportunities or as Sheryl Sandberg would say, "They ask which seat on the rocket ship." I can say, I've never been that woman. I'm quicker to sit in the driver's seat and ask someone to pass me a map. However, what comes with this type of boldness has been a road filled with small (and large) defeats, ungraceful exits and at times, humiliation. Despite all this, I continued along my path, because I believe that if you have a knowing about your purpose and who you are as a leader, you are obligated to embrace, pursue and master your potential.

Leadership skills are acquired over time, but they don't only exist in the hands of women of a certain age. They existing in the hearts of people who want to learn them. There are seven critical lessons you can use today to "Lean In", with impact.