Leadership, by its nature, involves being out in front, cutting a trail through difficult surroundings and confronting problems as they arise. Leaders spot opportunities and through the combination of market evidence and intuition pursue the right course for themselves and their organizations. They figuratively walk ahead and make sure the surrounding conditions are suitable for their people and organization. They are involved in the day-to-day activities of those they lead.
The label ‘pusher’ is often associated with illegal drugs and is the opposite of leader; this behavior is bad and wrong by any stretch of its definition. The label ‘pusher’ can also be attributed to managers or others who goad their people to action for selfish or otherwise negative reasons. They are pushers in the sense of compelling their people to walk ahead and set off the business land mines so they do not get burned. They make their people do things that they are unwilling to do themselves. They are ‘too busy’ or feel they are above doing the ‘grunt work’ they expect their people to do.
Are you a leader or a pusher? Answer the following questions:
- When times are tough, do you make decisions based on fear?
- Do your personal motives drive your decision-making?
- Do you feel your ideas and decisions are more important than those of the people who work for you?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might be a pusher. There are obviously many degrees of ‘pusher’ and they are not all bad. However, generally speaking a pusher is the antithesis of a leader. The outcome of the actions of a pusher never turns out positive. The outcome of the actions of a leader always turns out positive (though not always how you’d expect). Pushers make you do things; leaders make you want to do things. Pushers force, leaders inspire.
To become a leader, practice these principles:
- Courage: Leaders do not allow fear to direct their decisions. They possess the poise to make tough decisions, and they stand by the consequences. When times are tough they have the mettle to persevere.
- Integrity: Leaders are consistent in their actions, values and principles. Integrity plays an important part in their work life and their personal life. Their motives are aligned with their organizations and with their own internal beliefs.
- Humility: Leaders are humble. They are not weak or spineless but they posses an inner confidence that guides their actions. They are not in it to glorify themselves but to lift others.The best leaders are confidently humble.
The Product Management Perspective: The principle of leader vs. pusher applies nicely to product management. Product managers who push rather than lead do not succeed. Because you have to work with people you do not manage, it is imperative that you lead out and not try to push. Product managers who are leaders gain the respect and trust of their teams, and the quality and timeliness of the resulting products is evident.