Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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What is your level of positivity?

“The most successful companies and businesses understand that their greatest asset is their people. When businesses take care of their people the businesses and their people thrive. When they don’t take careof this incredibly valuable resource, they lose it. Fast.”

What approach do you take to life? Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? Or are you one of those who sees the glass as completely full no matter how much water it contains? Continue reading


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Unemotional Leadership—an Oxymoron

Guest post by Andrew Cravenho

I recently watched a rerun of Executive Suite, based on Cameron Hawley’s book of the same name. In this black and white classic, William Holden portrays a junior executive with great vision but limited executive experience. Upon the untimely death of the revered company president, the board must select a new leader.

The leading candidate is the scheming CFO played by Frederic March, a passionless, colorless bean counter groping for power, but with no vision beyond increasing dividend payouts to stockholders. In the final scene, Holden’s character displays his tremendous passion and sweeping vision for the direction he wants the company to take and ultimately gains the presidency. Read Article


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Becoming a decisive leader

“Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work with the following goals: “We want to make you a bit better at making good decisions, and we want to help you make your good decisions a bit more decisively. We also want to make you a better advisor to your colleagues and loved ones who are making decisions.”

The entire premise of the book is built around four principles the authors call the WRAP process:Decisive

  1. Widen Your Options
  2. Reality-Test Your Assumptions
  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding
  4. Prepare to be Wrong

To widen your options, ask yourself these questions: What are we giving up if we make this decision? What else could we do with the same time and money? Push for additional alternatives, for “this AND that” rather than “this OR that.” Find someone else who’s solved your problem, and learn from them.

To reality-test your assumptions, start by considering the opposite. Some companies have a formal process to prepare a case against a high-stakes proposal. Spark constructive disagreement within your organization. Find ways to bring real-world experience into your decision-making process.

As you make big decisions, take a step back and consider the larger impact. Use the 10/10/10 tool: how will I feel about the decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? What about 10 years from now? Look at your situation from an observer’s perspective. Focus on your core priorities and create a “stop doing” list to help you weed out time wasters.

No decision maker is perfect, so prepare ahead of time to be wrong. Consider a range of outcomes, from very bad to very good. Conduct a ‘pre-mortem’—“it’s a year from now, our decision has failed utterly. Why?” Do a ‘pre-parade’—“It’s a year from now. We’re heroes. Will we be ready for success?” Set ‘tripwires’—deadlines or partitions—to help you realize you have choices.

Finally, you have to trust in the process. “Bargaining”—horse-trading until all sides can live with the choice—will take more time up front, but it accelerates implementation. Making sure others are aware of your decision making process is key to team buy-in.

Decisive is a great read, filled with stories and examples of how to analyze things rapidly and make informed decisions quickly. I guarantee it will keep you interested and you will learn techniques for making decisions. The book is replete with great stories that will keep you reading and learning. Some of my favorites include:

  • David Lee Roth, lead singer of the band Van Halen, put an M&Ms clause in every contract. The clause demanded a bowl of the candy without any brown M&Ms backstage before every concert. Was he a spoiled rock diva or an operations expert?
  • What major decision did Andy Grove, president of Intel, make in 1985 that was a huge turning point for the company?
  • The CEO of Quaker (the oats company) made a major decision in 1983 that cost his company more than $1.5 billion by the time it all played out.
  • Why did Zappos, the online shoe store based in Las Vegas, offer its new employees $1000 (now up to $4000) to quit their job (at Zappos)? Why do they have one of the lowest employee turnover rates of any company?
  • Why did Kodak executives allow digital images to kill their company? What did the executives know years ahead of time that could have saved the company?
  • How did the product Rogaine emerge successfully from mistakes made in another product line?

If you read only one book this year, make sure it’s Decisive!


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers make decisions constantly. They get bombarded with figures and estimates all the time, and they need to make decisions and move forward. The book Decisive has opened my eyes to new, better ways of making decisions. This is a must-read for all product managers and product marketing managers.


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Leadership and listening

Positive and effective communication starts with listening. When you listen first and ask questions second, you come away with a much better understanding of what the other person wanted you to know. If you need to communicate something to another person, state it quickly and then listen to their response. When you participate in meetings, listen to what the others have to say. Fight the impulse to talk; listen attentively and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Recently I had an eye-opening experience with learning by listening. My son invited me to attend a session with renowned sports performance enhancement coach Dr. Craig Manning. The only stipulation from my son was…”you have to set back and listen, and not make any comments.” [Those who know me well know I like to chime in and share my wisdom, so this would be a challenge for me.]

I accepted. I went to the session and for a full hour I sat still and listened. It was an amazing experience. Even though Dr. Manning was teaching my son, I learned some remarkable things about myself. I discovered actions I can take to improve my life and my work. All of this came because I listened (not only to Dr. Manning, but also to my son).

If you want to be happier, work more effectively, or improve your leadership, take the time to listen. Don’t just hear what people say, pause and reflect on what they really mean. Ask questions that will help you to better understand what the other person is saying. Listen, and become a better leader.


The Product Management Perspective: You work with a lot of different people, most of whom have opinions about your product. A well-known mantra in product management is “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” While I agree the gist of this statement, I find value in listening to others’ opinions. The act of listening to others brings knowledge and enlightenment to us. Even if we end up doing something totally different from what the other person suggested, we all benefit from listening and considering alternatives.


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Essential Leadership Traits

Essential Leadership Traits in the Successful Small Business Owner — Guest post by Linda Forshaw

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell

In the course of an ordinary working day, a small business owner might wear many hats, but rarely is there one as important as that of leader. All businesses, no matter their size, require a strong leader at the helm. The temptation of the small business owner may be to get “stuck in” and adopt a role as a pseudo employee. While there is merit attached to not being afraid to get your hands dirty, in essence to lead by example, the smart small business owner will place a greater emphasis on a wider leadership strategy.

Communication must be crystal clear
Having a clear vision is essential, but communicating that vision is an absolute must. Providing employees with a roadmap of where you want to be helps everyone to stay on the same page; to keep track of the bigger picture and work consistently toward achieving it. A lack of clarity filtered down from above will only ever lead to missed opportunities and ultimately spell trouble for the small business owner.

Strong relationships have a very long reach
Solid relationships lie at the very core of the operations of any successful small business. To listen to others is a vital skill, but it is also imperative to understand and to acknowledge what others are saying. People are the greatest resource in any business, so engaging in a meaningful dialog with employees, customers, and other persons of importance is a fundamental part of building relationships in the vein of strong leadership.

The best kind of culture comes from above
Most people will understand the destructive nature that can result from a culture that focuses almost exclusively on backstabbing and blame. The strong small business owner will set an example of trust and cooperation. The best place for a positive company culture to come from is from the top down. Passion, compassion, energy, and motivation – they are all an essential part of a solution-centric attitude that is best served from above.

Give them room to grow and you will prosper
As the old adage goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” To put it into a more modern context, the most successful of small business owners inherently understand the potential value of contributions that are made by others. The only way to benefit from such contributions is to allow them to happen in the first place. You never really know where the next great idea will come from, and if it comes from one of your employees, you want to be the one to hear about it first.

How will you lead today?

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. The leading contributor to DegreeJungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay


The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers build strong relationships with people, both inside and outside the company; clear communication is key. PMs, like small business owners, need to listen to others, and work with them to release successful products.


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Developing Leadership Skills Early in your Career

Guest post by Caroline Ross

One thing that many young professionals don’t understand about the job market is that leadership plays a huge role in getting hired. As a former hiring manager and supervisor, I can say that the recent grads who have succeeded most in the workforce are those who’ve had intentional leadership experiences in college and after they’ve graduated. These are the types that succeed, so these were the types that I hired. If you’re worried about finding the right job early in your career, focus on leadership. Here’s how:

1. Don’t just join organizations; lead organizations
Many college students join various student organizations for the express purpose of padding their resume. They tend to do the same after college. When I see a laundry list of student or professional organizations on an applicant’s resume, this demonstrates to me that you aren’t very committed. Instead, join one organization that you’re truly passionate about, no matter what that organization is, and endeavor to become a leader within that organization. It’s much better to have one organization of which you were the president or chairman, instead of having several organizations on your resume that you were only semi-involved with.

2. Practice public speaking skills by joining Toast Masters or taking a speech course
Solid communication skills are important in every facet of the adult world, whether it’s during an interview, at work, or even in your personal relationships. A good, confident speaker, in my eyes, is a leader. As such, take the time to learn the basics of good public speaking. Most cities have at least one Toast Master’s chapter, and most schools also offer speaking courses, which you can still take as a continuing education course after you’ve graduated. Avail yourself of these opportunities to improve your ability to communicate and persuade.

3. Be involved at work and speak up
Every day, there are hundreds of hidden opportunities to develop leadership skills. One of the easiest ways to do so is to speak up during work meetings and be involved, even if you aren’t required to speak. Of course, offer your opinion in an appropriate manner so others will be receptive. You’ll not only learn the art of speaking, but you’ll also learn how to express your opinions in a clear and convincing manner, which matters a great deal in your future career. You can also practice leadership through greater involvement in other areas, like volunteering with a local organization.

Of course, you aren’t going to start your career off being the best possible leader that you can be. Leadership is an art that’s developed throughout your whole life. But if you take the time to practice early, you’ll be much more successful when it comes time to finding a job that suits your talents.  Good luck!

Caroline Ross is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She particularly enjoys giving students advice about their future careers and personal development. Check out more Caroline’s writing at www.accreditedonlineuniversities.com. Caroline welcomes your comments below!


The Product Management Perspective: Learning is (or it should be) a life-long endeavor. Make learning and leadership development a focus in your work as a product manager and you will find new avenues of success in your career.


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What is Strategic Leadership?

Guest post by Sarah Rawson

Throughout the ages, leaders and followers alike have wondered whether the process of leadership depends on inborn traits or whether it can be taught. Great leaders are either born or trained. Still, some people who strive for leadership never quite achieve it. This leads many people to believe that there must be some factors out of a person’s control.

For people who fear that they were not born a leader, hope is not lost. Leadership skills can be taught. Through education and the learning of new leadership strategies, people can understand what it takes to lead a group. Strategic leadership is particularly popular as a concept in emerging businesses, or any business looking for a competitive advantage. Through strategic leadership, a leader can guide a group or company through transitions, suggest creative yet practical ideas, see the big picture, and build relationships with other teams and organizations.

What is different about strategic leadership?
In general, a leader gives directions, organizes, and delegates. But a strategic leader does all of the above with a core focus on strategy. Businesses without long-term goals, a clear strategy and good communication between departments struggle to thrive. With strategic leaders in your company, who have achieved a strategic leadership education, you can ensure your company thrives instead of being forced to grow without a strategy. Operating without clear strategy could ultimately leave you with the potential to be doomed to failure. Strategic leaders must be able to select talent and encourage people in their teams to learn and grow each year through developing additional skills in line with the company strategy, taking on challenging tasks in order to increase their on-the-job education, and so on.

Leaders that Change the Game
Kevin Panozza started a SalesForce in Australia out of the ashes of a failed airline he used to work for. Starting with just 10 staff, he built the company into over 5000 staff in just 12 years, serving various high profile clients. Where call centers are notoriously known for their low morale and high staff turnover, Kevin decided to follow a non traditional strategy with regards to his employees. He ditched the corporate dress code and formalities and created a casual yet focused and staff-centered work environment, which vastly contributed to staff morale and the success of his company.

Steve Jobs is another strategic leader who’s absence was sorely felt when he originally left Apple. On his return the whole climate changed, and the company returned to regain it’s coveted position. Larry Page and Sergey Brin also took Google to great heights by employing strategic leadership. Furthermore, what all the above-mentioned leaders had in common is that they were never shy of bringing in speakers and coaches to train their staff, to push them further and to foster a culture of leaders within their respective organizations.

Can anyone be a strategic leader?
While you might not be what some people consider a natural-born leader, you are still able to learn to be a strategic leader. Education in strategic leadership, including seminars, short courses, and even Master’s in Strategic Leadership programs, will enable you to succeed in leadership contexts. Your focus will be on creating value within the businesses or companies where you work – and not just monetarily, but in less tangible measures such as in talent and drive. If this sounds exciting, you have the potential to be a strategic leader.

What can you do with strategic leadership skills?
Once you have developed the capacity to lead while keeping the big picture in mind, these talents can be applied anywhere from the home to the largest businesses in the world. You’ll be a calmer and happier person when you are not concerned about your leadership skills. This will have the effect of relaxing your team, which can help them do better in their jobs. You will be able to encourage great performance out of people in all areas of life while ensuring everyone is in touch with what is going on.

How do you learn about strategic leadership?
Books and short courses only go so far. If you have completed an undergraduate education, you may wish to pursue this field as a way to lead or improve your leadership, learn about effective decision-making, and develop life skills applicable to other contexts. Even if you have been working full-time, you can go back to school.

Schools worldwide offer various forms of Master’s programs designed for career professionals who want to enhance their abilities. Strategic leadership skills are useful in all areas of your life, and by developing these skills you can grow as a professional and as a person.

Sarah Rawson is a freelance writer and is also studying for her MS in Strategic Management. Her articles appear on various higher education blogs.


The Product Management Perspective: Leadership is the key to successful product management. Eric Hoffer says it well: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Always have a learning mindset. Be strategic in your role as product manager.

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