Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Book Review: The Fearless Mind

“When we learn how to cultivate a fearless mind, we can achieve whatever we set out to accomplish.” According to Dr. Craig Manning, author of The Fearless Mind: 5 Essential Steps to Higher Performance, a ‘fearless mind’ is achieved when we have cleansed ourselves of the barriers that prevent us from reaching our greatest potential. We do this by learning to accept what we have control over (and what we do not). When we understand this we are able to channel our energy into mastering those aspects that we have direct responsibility for, and not wasting energy (emotional, mental, or physical) on those things that are outside our control.

Dr. Manning played tennis throughout his youth, in college (on scholarship) and as a professional. However, through an interesting series of events – which he describes in the book – he discovered his true passion was helping others become masters of their sport. He’s helped athletes in tennis, skiing and track and field become champions. In the book he uses stories from sports to help people in any profession achieve much higher levels of performance.

The Fearless Mind helps you master those aspects of your life that you can control. Dr. Manning takes you through five steps to help you achieve higher performance:

Step 1 – Motivation: The will to keep trying, and the will to win are critical to success. Motivation is fixed in behavior, and behavior is rooted in one of two forms: task or ego. Task-oriented behavior is focused on performance, here and now. Ego-oriented individuals focus on how outcomes affect their self-worth. Motivation is guided by one of these two outcomes. Task-oriented behavior is the key to becoming a master.

Step 2 – Anxiety: Anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” When we don’t feel like we have control, anxiety increases significantly. Is anxiety bad? Not if we learn how to channel it positively. It can provide us with the energy to get things done much more quickly and efficiently.

Step 3 – Concentration: Concentration is referred to as “attention control” or the discipline to focus on what is relevant, and ignore everything that is irrelevant. Concentration is absolutely critical to becoming a championship athlete or master of whatever you endeavor to achieve.

Step 4 – Confidence: Confidence is a feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment. Many people confuse self-confidence with arrogance – they are very different behaviors. You cannot have too much self-confidence; store up as much as you can to help you in the difficult moments.

Step 5 – Decision Making: “No individual is destined for greatness. We achieve high performance only through hard work…and a fearless mind.” Making correct decisions is important at every stage of development, whether you’re an athlete or a CEO. Becoming disciplined at task-oriented behavior will instill within us the ability to make correct decisions at every point along the way. Disciplined decision makers become masters.

These principles will set you on the course to success. I highly recommend this book to help you gain mastery over your life. Dr. Manning’s five steps will help you focus on what you need to change to become a master. Don’t hesitate, get a copy of the book and begin developing a fearless mind.

Full disclosure: I know Dr. Manning and consider him a dear friend. His teachings and influence are making a considerable impact on my son’s efforts to become a championship ballroom dancer.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers deal with a myriad of tasks and distractions every day, and the sheer volume often seems overwhelming. Can you become a ‘master’ product manager? Yes, you can if you focus on the right things. The “right things” will differ from one product (or company) to another; the key is having a fearless mind and being a fearless leader. The five steps in The Fearless Mind will help you master the role of product manager. As a side note, I highly recommend Dr. Manning’s podcast on Live on Purpose Radio.


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Leadership and enthusiasm

Attitude determines direction. Successful people possess a deep passion for the activities in which they engage. In the ancient Greek vernacular enthusiasm meant inspiration or divine influence. In modern English it refers to intense enjoyment, interest, or approval.

wooden-on-leadershipEnthusiasm drives passion and fuels achievement. It comes from within. Expressing enthusiasm is a choice, and those who choose it benefit from the results. The great basketball coach John Wooden said: “Your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.” Not only will it inspire others but it will also inspire you to reach new heights.

The “sales guru” and bestselling author Augustine “Og” Mandino described the importance of enthusiasm this way:

Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.

Whether you are enthusiastic or not is a choice. Find ways to cultivate this behavior in your own life and you will reap the benefits; do not settle for mediocrity.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to find ways to motivate the teams they work with. Leading on purpose is all about finding ways to lead and inspire other people — over whom you have little or no managerial authority — to do things better and faster than they thought possible. Enthusiasm (for your work and your product) is crucial.

Image courtesy of Cultivating Greatness


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The greatest need

I heard a great statement that is attributed to Dr. Steven Covey. He was presenting at a large conference when someone in the audience asked what (of all the things he’s taught during his career) is the most important idea he’d ever taught. Dr. Covey’s response was that people’s greatest need is to feel and be understood. Of all the great leadership principles he’d taught over his successful career, the most important was simply to remember that people have feelings and an innate desire to be understood by others.

I was introduced to Dr. Covey’s principle through a Live on Purpose Radio podcast with Dr. Paul and Kirk Weisler. While listening to their discussion I thought of three things leaders can do to help people feel and be understood:

  • Help people get what they desire: Leaders have a great opportunity to find out what people want to achieve – from their work, their participation, their efforts that tie them to the organization – and do everything in their power to help them achieve their goals. The more a leader helps others improve, the more he or she will progress.
  • Express and share enthusiasm: People feed off the enthusiasm of those around them. Leaders who love what they do and show it by their expressions, actions and tone, endear themselves to their followers.
  • Communicate with stories: Stories convey meaning powerfully. Stories are among the most effective tools of leadership. They communicate meaning and motivate others to act on what they’ve learned. Stories help the hearer to remember the principles taught.

It’s a simple yet powerful concept: help people feel and be understood. The effects will be measurable.

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