Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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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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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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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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Exercising 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 those around them. Seth Godin is spot on in his recent post about why this is not the time to ask for money. He says: “Attention can be worth more than money. Enthusiasm is priceless.”

Exercising enthusiasm takes hard work. Vince Lombardi said it well: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Enthusiasm leads to success only after a lot of hard work and persistence. The news is largely negative these days, but don’t let that stop you from being happy about the good things in life, or passionate about your favorite team, or excited about the successes of your family and friends. When times are tough, look for the positives and focus on helping others see them. Others will come to you for advice and look to you for leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to find ways to motivate the teams they work with. Lead 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. The ‘rah-rah’ cheer leading approach will not fly, but the focus and work will. Remember Lombardi’s quote.


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How to get along

There seem to be a lot of stories flying around the media about people bickering, fighting or otherwise not getting along with each other. While such situations might help spark a political campaign, they do nothing for people trying to progress and become more successful. It’s especially important learn how to get along with your boss and co-workers. On his Great Leadership blog, Dan McCarthy writes about 10 ways to get off on the right foot with your new manager. He makes the assumption that the new manager is a good, competent leader and not a jerk. Here’s the list of ten (without detail; check out Dan’s post for the meat):

  1. Be good (both doing good things and good at what you do)
  2. Be proactive about introducing yourself
  3. Exhibit behaviors that are appreciated (enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, initiative, and good judgement)
  4. Clarify expectations up front
  5. Help your new manager learn
  6. Try to minimize how many times you say “we tried that before and it didn’t work”
  7. Be VERY open to change
  8. Learn about your new manager
  9. Watch your manager’s back
  10. However….. don’t be a blatant suck-up.

Working for a new manager/boss/leader provides a great opportunity to shine, to model things (including your career) the way you’ve always wanted them to go. Take the opportunity to form new relationships and make most out of new circumstances.


The Product Management Perspective: Dan’s advice is significant for product managers. They not only have to manage up to their boss, but also horizontally, with managers of other teams on whom they depend for success. The ten steps listed above work equally well in both cases.


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The Energy Bus


What does it take to run a successful organization?

There is obviously no one right answer to this question. However, positive thinking and energy are among the attributes featured in the book: The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. The Energy Bus is a story (written in the style of other bestselling business fables) of George, who’s struggling at work and at home. His car breaks down, which forces him to ride the bus to work. He ends up on a bus with a driver named Joy. Joy is not the average bus driver; she helps her riders recognize and understand principles of success that affect every aspect of their lives.

The book presents principles, through George’s story, in an easy-to-understand format. The story has its banal moments, but it makes for an easy read, and more importantly provides a vehicle to deliver important principles in an understandable format. One of the key principles discussed is “contagious leadership.” When a person in a leadership role (or any role) exerts energy with the intent to motivate others, it’s contagious. To clarify this point the author gives five ways to “love your passengers” (or motivate the people you lead):

  • Make time for them
  • Listen to them
  • Recognize them
  • Serve them
  • Bring out the best in them.

The overall story of the energy bus is captured in the 10 rules for the ride of your life:

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

The book motivates its readers to focus on the positive, use the energy that comes from it to improve their production, and inspire others to do likewise.

The Product Management Perspective: Team energy is critical to the success of a product. When product managers focus on building up and inspiring their teams they will increase the energy that goes into all aspects of product development, and increase the likelihood for success.


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Passionate product managers

A common characteristic of tuned product managers is the passion they have for their work and the products they manage. Their passion shows through when they interact with the product team or speak to customers; they communicate their enthusiasm by their actions. Ivan at The Productologist wrote a great post about the importance of being passionate about your products. He explains,

Product Managers have to be passionate about their products in order to energize others about it. Passion can come in a variety of flavors, but no matter how you feel about your product(s), you have to be passionate if you expect others to be.

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