Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Great Leaders are Made, Not Born

Guest post by Allen Kors

While some may be born with an innate knack for great leadership skills like confidence, communication, and creativity, I’d like to argue that great leaders are made not born. Even if you are born with certain traits and talents, only through carefully developing those skills and talents can you learn to master the art of leadership. Being a great leader takes practice.

To develop great people skills, potential leaders need to learn how to become better listeners, how to accept critical feedback in a constructive way, and how to best display empathy and patience with other team members and colleagues. Continue reading


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Five factors to inspiring team members

We all know people who inspire us, who encourage us—through their actions and example—to work hard, to persevere through difficult circumstances. What’s their secret? How do they persuade others to do great things? While every circumstance is different, leaders find ways to inspire the people they lead.

Here are five factors[1] that, if understood and applied, will increase your ability to inspire your team members: […]


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How to lead without blinders

Several years ago I wrote that you can’t fake leadership. Becoming a leader requires a careful combination of confidence and humility. Leading an organization requires focusing intently in key areas. Successful leaders lead with their eyes wide open.

In my “day job” as a product manager I create software products that help companies fight against internal fraud. I was recently given the honor of publishing an article in Wired Innovation Insights—Blinders at the C-Level Can Cost You Billions—which discusses the perils of the “not-in-my-company” attitude, and the importance of incorporating active risk-management strategies to mitigate the insider threat. Though it focuses mostly on insider fraud, the article has valuable lessons for all leaders about focusing on the right things and not getting blindsided by the vulnerabilities your organization faces.

You can’t fake leadership, especially if you’re wearing blinders!


The Product Management Perspective: One of the best ways product managers can avoid getting caught with their blinders on is to proactively listen to your customers.


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Three keys to leading under pressure

Think about the last time something went wrong that drove up your stress level. How did you deal with it? Did it ruin your day?

We all face high-pressure situations at different times for different reasons. The following three steps will help you get through any pressure-filled situation:

  • Assess the situation: Take a step back and evaluate what happened. Hone in on what’s causing the stress and do everything you can to understand the situation. Do not jump to premature conclusions; instead, consider your alternatives for moving forward.
  • Make a plan: Instead of just plowing forward with reckless abandon, make plans for what you can do to move forward and get through the difficult situation. Write your plans and take a positive attitude towards the situation. Reach out to trusted advisors to get their input on your plan, and humbly accept their advice even if it means you need to change.
  • Move forward with confidence: Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Carry out your plan with optimism and confidence. Don’t leave anything to chance; make sure to focus on carrying out your plan. Seek feedback from others as you work towards your solution.

The ability to move forward shows the mark of a true leader. Like it or not, difficult things will happen that cause your stress level to rise. When the pressure rises don’t shy away, face the situation head-on, deal with it and move forward.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers experience pressure in many aspects of their job. Product releases tend to cause stress, especially when R&D efforts are running behind. High-pressure situations will come; as PM you are in a key position to have a positive affect on the difficult situation.


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Leadership and confidence

Confidence is a key driver of effective leadership. The ability to both possess and exhibit confidence will have a measurable impact on your ability to lead well. Understanding what confidence is, and is not, will improve your leadership abilities.

Confidence is not arrogance. An arrogant person attempts to lift himself up and put others down. Every move is calculated to elevate himself, and make sure others know of his importance.

Confidence is not cockiness. A cocky person wants the world to know how good he is, and while not necessarily putting others down, he makes a big deal of himself.

On the other end of the spectrum, confidence is not passivity. A passive person knows he’s not that good and thinks everyone else is better. He goes along letting things happen to him, convinced he’s helpless to do anything about it.

So what does it mean to be confident? I like this definition from Dr. Craig Manning:

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.

A confident person doesn’t hesitate when asked a question; the answer comes immediately. A confidence person is aggressive towards events (e.g. winning a sale) and things, but not aggressive towards people, at least in a negative way. A confident person doesn’t worry about whom she is and what she can do. This frees her up to do great things as a leader.

To learn more about how you can become a confident leader, I highly recommend Dr. Manning’s book The Fearless Mind: 5 Essential Steps to Higher Performance. Much of what I have learned about confidences comes from his book and from personal interactions with him.

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: Confidence is an essential characteristic for product managers. PMs drive the product roadmap, which has a major impact on the overall success of the company. Their confidence is key to creating successful products.


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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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Five Actions for Sound Business Leadership

Guest post by Lewis Edward

It’s easy to want others to follow you. The hard part is making yourself the kind of individual people would actually want to follow, and not merely feel obligated to do so. Would you follow you?

By following these five easy but key steps, you can make yourself the kind of leader you need to be in no time:

Lead by example

Don’t be a “do as I say” kind of person. Instead, adopt the “do as I say and do” approach. You can’t expect those under you to work hard consistently if you don’t work hard yourself. Sure, they may work hard at first, especially if you’re holding one threat or the other over their heads; but sooner or later, not even fear or financial motivation are going to able to cut it.

At such times, inspiration has been found more often than not, to work best. And nothing inspires more than a leader who doesn’t just “talk the talk” so to speak, but actually “walks the walk” as well.

Be enthusiastic about what you do; be passionate

If you actually love the kind of work you do, this should come easily to you. Nevertheless, even if your work happens to be less than a delight, don’t despair. Not everyone can have their dream job. You can still be passionate about what you do, or at the very least appear to be passionate about what you do, by adopting the right approach to your work.

One good way to build up enthusiasm on the job is to always focus on the brighter aspects of your work (the happy smiles of satisfied customers, for instance). Being an enthusiastic leader is important because it serves as a dependable source of motivation for the other members of your team.

Be confident

Believe it or not, just like dogs can smell fear in humans, so can followers sense hesitation, uncertainty, or panic in a leader. To be a confident leader, you need a healthy dose of courage.

Now being confident or courageous doesn’t mean you have to be the kind of person that doesn’t get scared, anxious, or worried; you only have to play the part and try as much as possible to hide such demoralizing emotions from the members of your team. After all, according to Ambrose Redmoon, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear”. And in this instance, what is more important than fear is making sure the work gets done.

Be organized

More often than not, the efficiency of your team will be nothing more than a reflection of yours. So if you’re disorganized, your team will likely be disorganized; and if you’re organized, so will your team.

Learn to delegate

The true salt of a leader doesn’t lie in being able to get things done; it lies in making others get things done. This is why a person can be such an effective and efficient worker and still end up being a lousy leader. One salient reason why some business leaders fail at being leaders is because they refuse to, or simply don’t know how to delegate.

As a leader, there is no way you can do everything on your own. That is why you need to learn to allot duties to the members of your team effectively. In this regard however, a leader must take great care not to mistake proper and effective delegation for total absolution from responsibility on his/her part.

If you do not have any of these qualities it will be hard to replicate leaders from your life and from history. There is always a big debate as to whether leaders are born or made from their learning and environment. The truth is it is probably a combination of the two interacting. You cannot separate the effect of your environment on your genes. The truth is that it is our words, actions and behaviors that will inspire and motivate other people. By learning to do the right thing, and learning to behave like a leader we can become the kind of person we would follow into any battle.

Lewis Edward is one of the owners of TheOfficeProviders. He is a real estate investor with many interests in other sectors. Lewis researches and contributes various written features for TheOfficeProviders in areas regarding real estate, including office space for rent and flexible office space, and general business and economy matters. Lewis is experienced in the inner workings of both the traditional and flexible workspace industries and has developed close links with various figures in real estate circles, as well other circles.


The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers know that to lead their teams (and products) effectively they have to be persuasive and optimistic. They need to find ways to lead people without being the boss. The five actions discussed in this post will help you become a better product manager, and hence a better leader in your company.

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