Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Six Channels of Influence: How to Navigate Them Effectively

Guest post by Willy Steiner

The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Nikola Tesla

Humans are very complex organisms. We are the sum of the various influences of our lives – family, educational, religious, social, national and organizational. I had a client who worked quite a few years in a top-down, command-and-control type of environment. When his boss concurred with his recommendations, that seal of approval, that authority, was all he needed to influence things. When I got to know him he had moved to another organization and proceeded to start with buy-in from his boss prior to the implementation of various solutions. But he got significant cultural resistance because this was not a command-and-control type of environment. He had to work hard developing relationships to get buy-in and reduce resistance. Once we appreciated the differences in influence style between the different organizations, I was very proud to see how my client worked hard to adapt to this new model of influence in the new organization. Continue reading


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How to lead with integrity

One of the most important characteristics of leadership is integrity. Integrity means you are true to your word in all you do and people can trust you because you do what you say.

The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.

In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore and Chatham Sullivan discuss what integrity means and why it’s so important:

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How leaders harness innovation to out think competitors

“We’ve entered a new era. Call it the age of imagination, ideation, conceptualization, creativity, innovation—take your pick. Creativity, mental flexibility, and collaboration have displaced one-dimensional intelligence and isolated determination as core ingredients of a competitive advantage.”

Out ThinkIn his book OUT THINK: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, author Shawn Hunter synthesizes a set of what he calls “truths in emerging innovative leadership practices” that help companies generate value in the form of innovative products and services. The volatility of the current economy—which he calls ‘marketquake’—demands that organizations become agile in order to survive.

In the book, Hunter explains a series of ten processes that comprise the ‘Out Think’ journey:

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Successful companies are “nice”

“There’s no way to institutionalize or “corporatize” niceness…. It has to come from the top, and from there it will filter down…”

We live in a world where information travels quickly and powerfully. Nothing happens—good or bad—without the world knowing it. In his book Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management is over—and Collaboration Is In, author Peter Shankman shows how famously nice executives, entrepreneurs, and companies are setting the standard for success in this new world. He goes in-depth with nine hallmarks of effective leadership:

Nice CompaniesTrait #1—Enlightened Self-Interest: Creates a system where people feel secure but also accountable; where everyone feels confident enough to say, “I made a mistake.”

Trait #2—The Accessibility Factor: Shows commonsense respect and openness for and with colleagues, direct reports and rank-and-file workers and establishes a feeling of workplace equality.

Trait #3—Strategic Listening: Makes sure they understand what someone is saying instead of taking words and forgetting them later. Acts on what they see and hear in the marketplace.

Trait #4—Good Stewardship: Seeks, first and foremost, to be a good neighbor; chooses stewardship that fits with and reflects well on the business.

Trait #5—Loyalty: Allows for and encourages professional growth of employees; provides flexibility for motivated, productive workers; lets employees fail and ensures that everyone learns the lessons within the failure.

Trait #6—Glass-Half-Full POV: Acts enthusiastically about the possibilities, but is not blind to the problems. Is action-oriented, takes time to consider all options and makes timely decisions.

Trait #7—Customer Service-Centric: Practices what he or she preaches; gives the team permission to solve customer problems; knows the audience—it’s not about who you think you are, it’s about what your customer thinks.

Trait #8—Merit-Based Competitor: Observes the marketplace and examines data for competitive insights; provides customers with new reasons to return; finds new, fun ways to make change work.

Trait #9—Gives a Damn: Makes decisions based on shareholder value and impact on corporate integrity; does what’s right even if it’s not obviously profitable; accepts ultimate responsibility.

Mr. Shankman shows how leaders like JetBlue’s Dave Needleman, Andrew Taylor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Ken Chenault of Amex practice these traits to build productive, open, innovative and positive workplaces for the benefit of customers, employees, stockholders, and the bottom line. Your organization’s growth and success will increase as you apply these principles.

This book has scores of stories that illustrate how nice people and companies finish first. It’s a must-read for every leader who wants to create a successful, long-term organization.


The Product Management Perspective: It goes without saying that nice product managers have more success. Your success depends on others doing their work in the best way possible. Take Mr. Shankman’s words to heart as you take your next product to market.


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How do leaders make lasting change?

One of the great leaders and thinkers of our time is Clayton Christensen, ”a down-to-earth” alum of BYU, Oxford and Harvard. His book The Innovators Dilemma has impacted the business world perhaps more than any other book in recent history. He has expanded his research and applied his theories to other industries like health care, higher education and even governments and tax systems.

I found two recent articles about Clayton Christensen that have increased my understanding about leadership: The first is published in the BYU Magazine’s Spring 2013 edition. (As a BYU alum I get the magazine in the mail; it will be available online in a few months.) The second article is an interview in Wired magazine. In this interview author Jeff Howe asks Christensen questions about his career and sheds thought-provoking light on how he became so important to the business world.

So how do leaders make lasting change? According to Christensen, you keep nimble and respond to up-and-coming innovations at the bottom of the market. You make a concerted effort to not let your company become vulnerable to what Christensen coined as disruptive innovation.

What’s even more important to Christensen is the application of his theories to individual lives; making lasting change in your personal life. He recently wrote the book How Will You Measure Your Life in response to his experiences with former classmates and students. Rather than attempting to explain it I will point you to a TED video where Clayton describes it himself.

If you really want to make lasting change in your life, understand these principles. In the end, says Christensen: “God will measure my life by the individual people that I have blessed.” That’s how you make lasting change.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers operate in a very interesting position (in light of Clayton Christensen’s theories): they need to innovate and keep their products viable. However, the very things they do to innovate lead to The Innovator’s Dilemma if not watched and guarded closely. Take a careful look at Christensen’s writings and talks, and look for ways to apply them in your role as product manager.


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Trust in Leadership – 5 Key Practices to Earn Trust

Guest post by Daniela Baker

One recent article in Forbes magazine examined the interesting phenomenon behind a shift in today’s leadership principles. The article’s author asserts that old leadership models were based on power because business was essentially about competition.

Today’s more collaborative, creative business models, on the other hand, require leaders with high emotional intelligence – business leaders who can build trust among their colleagues and employees.

The bottom line: if you want to make it as a real leader in today’s business culture, you’ve got to earn trust from those above, below, and beside you. Here are five key practices to help you do this:

1. Be vulnerable

On some level, trust comes from authenticity. If your people see you as an authentic, open, vulnerable human being, they’ll be more likely to trust you.

There’s a fine line to walk here, though. You don’t want to be naïve and set yourself up to be taken advantage of, but you do want to own up to your failures and be honest and humble. One way to do this is to let some of your personal life into your work – though, again, there’s a fine line to walk here. Another way to do this is to admit past or current mistakes, especially when mentoring your team members.

2. Don’t pass the buck

President Harry Truman was famous for the wooden sign on his desk reading “The Buck Stops Here.” One of the reasons Truman was able to build trust in those around him was that he wasn’t afraid to take responsibility for his decisions.

This should be one of your mottos as a trust-building leader. Yes, there will be times when other people will mess up, and you’ll have to deal with that. But if a decision ultimately comes down to you, make the choice, and then stand by the consequences – good or bad. If your team knows that you aren’t going to try to pass the blame to someone else, they’ll trust you more.

3. Stop micro-managing

Micro-management in the work place is a great way to tear down trust. That’s because trust is a two-way street. In order to feel trust for you, your team members also need to feel that you trust them. And if you’re constantly micro-managing their processes, they won’t feel that you trust them.

If you think you might possibly be a micro-manager, talk to others about this. Then, learn to step back and let your team members do their work. This may mean leaving room for failure, but it also means leaving space for others to learn from their mistakes.

4. Allow room for confrontation

As a leader, people will trust you more if they feel that they can bring up negative points about you, your team, a project you’re working on, or whatever. You don’t want to seek out confrontation, but you should leave space for healthy, professional confrontation that, in the long run, improves relationships.

You can create this culture by not shying away from the hard conversations with your team members. And you can create space for negative feedback by meeting with your team members on a regular basis. If you are confronted about a mistake, a choice, or something else a team member is unhappy about, listen to their complaints, take them seriously, and handle the confrontation as professionally as possible.

5. Tell it like it is

Talking in circles or constantly using subtext in your professional life is another way to break down trust. To build it up, practice telling it like it is. Open up; write a blog that others can see. For instance, we publish a blog for small business owners to help us earn trust from partners, small business owners, and our fellow team members.

This doesn’t mean you need to be tactless, but you do need to be direct and honest. If you have a reputation for directness and honesty, others will learn to trust what you say about yourself, your team, and your work.

Remember, building trust takes time, and it’s a very relational thing. You can have a great reputation for trust company-wide, but if you break trust with one person on your team, you’ll have to work hard to rebuild that person’s trust in you. This takes time and effort, but if you consistently put these five habits into practice, you’ll be a more trustworthy leader in general.

Daniela Baker from CreditDonkey is a small business blogger and social media advocate.  She studied journalism and new media. She has lived on three continents and collaborates closely with a select group of international publishers. One of her favorite quotes is: “Decisions are made by those who show up.”


The Product Management Perspective: Trust is the most important characteristic a product manager can possess. To effectively work with development, sales and other teams in your organization you must gain their trust. Trust is key to understanding your customers and your market. Trust is a two-way street: you need to carry out your tasks in such a way that the team members will trust you. You also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do. The five key practices listed above provide an excellent roadmap to developing trust with your teams.


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Three leadership questions

As another year comes to a close and a new year is on the horizon, it’s natural to look back at how things went in the past year and resolve to do better in the next. Here are three questions to ponder as you prepare to lead on purpose in 2013:

What are you doing to build trust with those you lead?

Building trust is a critical factor in leading others to success. Trust is a two-way street: you need to live and act so that others can trust you, and you need to trust others to do what they say they’ll do. Randy Conley points out a key factor in building trust: “Repairing broken trust can be a long and arduous process, and the best way to build trust with others is to not break it in the first place.”

How will you influence those you lead?

Great leaders have an uncanny ability to influence others. It’s important to focus your influence in positive areas that will build others. As Mike Myatt said in a recent post, “A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control.”

Are you confident in your ability to succeed?

Acting with confidence can feel like walking a tightrope: if you have too much of it you come off as cocky or arrogant, if have too little you’re seen as passive or weak. Yet developing confidence is a defining key to success. “Act confident even when you feel the opposite. If you know that you can look like a confident, capable person, eventually you’ll start to feel it, too.” This is just one of many excellent ideas on unleashing your inner confidence by Lolly Daskal.

While not all encompassing, spending time answering these questions – and taking steps to improve based on your answers – will get you off to a great start in 2013.


The Product Management Perspective: Leadership in product management is developed over time; however, certain skills accelerate that development. Building trust, exercising positive influence and showing confidence are key skills for developing successful products. Spend time developing these attributes and you will reap the rewards.

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