Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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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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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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Five Years of Leading on Purpose

Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of the day I started Lead on Purpose. It all started because of an invitation to publish an article in The Pragmatic Marketer (Jan 2008). I wanted an outlet to write about how you can lead regardless of your position or title. Five years has flown by and blogging has become a part of my life.

Writing this blog has been a great learning experience for me. On this anniversary I want to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned about blogging and life:

Keep it short: Say what you want to say in a few words as possible. (I haven’t always done this.)

Leaders are learners: Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn new things.

Producers prosper: Those who work hard to build, design, create or imagine new things are called “producers” and they always prosper.

Relationships are key. Spend time building relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Leadership is a relationship.

Trust is vital: Gaining and keeping the trust of those with whom you interact is vital to your success.

Lead with integrity: If you want to enjoy more success in life, live with integrity, lead with integrity.

Many thanks to all of you, the readers, and a special thank you goes to those who have actively participated through comments and guest posts. Here’s to another five years!


The Product Management Perspective: I love product management! I’ve spent the last 12 years working in product management in one form or another. Interacting with you – the product management professionals of the world – is what keeps me going, encourages me to continue writing and stokes the flames that make learning and growing so satisfying.


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Lead by Example

Five Ways to Be Influential and Succeed with Your Team

Guest post by Tess Pajaron

At my former job, I had a boss who would consistently tell people how important it was to leave the office on time and balance work and life. Then, he would text in the evenings, brag about how late he stayed after everyone had left and go into the office each weekend. He did not lead by example and it made the workplace confusing, uncertain and ultimately stressful.

Being a leader can be difficult. You may have some employees who communicate differently than others, conflicts to overcome within your team and roadblocks that can stunt creativity. But in the end, when you lead by example, you set the tone for your team and create a culture in your department and office.

Here are five ways you can lead by example and influence your team to innovate and succeed every time:

1. Communicate Effectively

Open communication is one of the most important aspects of solid team cohesiveness. Solid communication starts by listening. When you as the leader listen to your team members, you in turn lead by example and demonstrate them the importance of listening each and every time. This skill of listening can be a challenge for some teams, but when you set the example and create a culture of listening to various opinions, ideas and feedback you give your team a forum to feel comfortable expressing their ideas. This has been shown to improve innovation among teams. When each person shares their opinion openly, ideas come together and everyone plays an important role in the outcome of the project.

2. Practice What You Preach

Great leadership is done with integrity and honesty. When you practice the same good habits that you preach to your team members, you show integrity in your actions and become more trustworthy. Walking the talk goes a long way with employees when it comes to how much they respect what you have to say. When you do the opposite of what you request of them, for example not leaving the office on time and working weekends, your employees begin to doubt your leadership and wonder if they should be doing as you say or as you do. This can create a sense of confusion and quickly drive a team apart.

3. Empower Through Delegation

You brought your team together because you, or someone else in your organization, trusted in your employee’s ability to help your organization. Delegating out tasks hands over this trust and shows your team that you believe in their capabilities. If you do everything yourself, you are not leading by example but instead you are sending a signal that their input does not matter and that it is your way or no way. To have the most success, engage your team by providing them tasks to accomplish and lead by being a resource of information to help them accomplish what they are capable of.

4. Share Responsibility

A certain sense of humility goes in to leading a team well. When you discuss openly, you may find that you are wrong. Being able to admit that you are wrong for the greater good of the project and team success is a prime case of leading by example. When you can do this, you also allow your team to feel as if it is acceptable when they are wrong on an idea making them feel more comfortable with their creativity and idea generation. These ideas help fuel innovation, so sharing responsibility and being proactive in coming up with the best solution for the project as a group is essential.

5. Set Goals

Finally, having an end goal in sight that every member of the team is working toward will help you to lead toward that goal. This will allow you lead by example as you work hard toward the end goal. When your team sees you working hard toward the end goal, they in turn will do the same.

Leading by example can be difficult but using these five tips can make you a more influential leader. This is what will make you and your team a success.

Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind Open Colleges. She graduated in Business Administration with a major in Management. When not working, she loves to travel and discover new places and cultures. She can also be found on Cerebral Hacks, where she regularly contributes articles about psychology.


The Product Management Perspective: The five ideas above are all important aspects of successful product management. One of the key ideas from my perspective is building trust. Product managers who trust the other teams to do their job, and work/act in ways that allow others to trust them, have much more success with their products.


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Guest Post: How non-leaders can lead

By Peter Davey

John C Maxwell defined leadership when he said, “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.”Maxwell has correctly identified that leadership is not just about traits, position, personality and experience; it’s more about having an ability to influence people by maintaining integrity and trustworthiness.

If you want to further understand John Maxwell’s viewpoint on this, you’ll probably need to look at what types of behavior are most commonly associated with effective leadership. As you attempt to answer that question, you suddenly realize that the behavioral skills that even the most effective leaders possess are very common in non-leaders as well. For non-leaders, these are behaviors that will help to build or enhance their personal leadership skills and will ultimately assist in helping to produce clear, tangible results for the business.

So what are the behaviors that can potentially turn a non-leader into an effective leader?

Displaying a positive mental attitude. A positive mental attitude creates a mindset of abundance, enthusiasm, and solutions. Instead of thinking about what can’t be done, a positive thinker will not be constrained by ‘can’ and ‘cannot.’ A positive thinker is free to think of new ways to solve problems because they are not limited by fear of failure. Attitudes are contagious.

Encourage others. Encouragement is the skill of an effective leader. Show your belief in others. Look for opportunities to give them positive/constructive feedback. By encouraging others, you are not only helping to improve your relationship with them, but you may also be helping them to achieve something great.

Listen more, talk less. The simple key to working well with others is to listen more and talk less. When we listen, we can learn about the other person’s motivations. When we understand those, we are in a better position to guide and influence them. A useful way to remember the proportion of listening to speaking is to remember that you have two ears and one mouth. Quite simply, you should listen twice as much as you speak.

Engage with others. Engaging with others is not just about engaging with those who share your values and beliefs (the like-minded), but also about engaging with those who think differently from you and are doing something that may seem completely different and unrelated. Do not be afraid to engage across diversity, for that is how you will learn.

Be a great follower. Since leadership is an activity and not a role, recognize that you won’t always be leading; you must be willing and able to follow others too.  Developing this as a conscious practice will help you build your relationships; more importantly, it will allow you to observe others as they lead. Being a good follower will involve keeping your manager informed, always supporting your manager behind their backs, embracing change, bringing solutions (not problems) to your manager, admitting your mistakes, being a team player and being the eternal optimist.

Embrace a learning culture. Being effective requires us to continually learn and develop ourselves.  In doing this, we can become a positive role model for others, helping them see the importance of learning as well.

Continually develop your communication skills. Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way towards creating a good and lasting impression with others.

Irrespective of your own status, when you consistently display the right behavioral skills, you are building and maintaining integrity and trustworthiness. You are in effect, building a strong capability to influence others by having people listen to your ideas, valuing or following your suggestions for action, and turning to you for guidance or advice.

Peter Davey is a Senior Trainer for a UK-based management training provider and consultancy. t2 Management Training offer leadership and management training to all types of managers – from team leaders to Directors and CEOs – and work with some of the biggest companies in the country.


The Product Management Perspective: Many of the behaviors described here are key to successful product management. Product managers need to keep a positive attitude and encourage their teams to work hard and work effectively. They need to listen to the market and learn what makes potential buyers want to buy their products. They need to communicate effectively, both inside and outside the company. Perhaps most important, product managers need to be learners.


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Three winning words

December is a great time of year. Most people go out of their way to be a little kinder and a bit more open to what others are thinking. Regardless of religious beliefs most people seem more open to talking to their neighbors and cutting people slack for things they would not consider at other times during the year.

There are many things that contribute to the feelings that abound during the holiday season; however, given the focus of the Lead on Purpose blog, the following three words seem most applicable:

  • Trust: The word trust has bi-direction meaning and only works when flowing both ways: you have to depend on other people to do what they say they will do; and you have to work, act and believe so that others will confide in and depend on you. People who live and behave in such a way that others can confide in them understand the importance of trust. Take inventory of the people you trust and the people you feel trust you. Do everything in your power to make word ‘trust’ part of your persona.
  • Integrity: 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.
  • Positivity: The word positivity suggests the act of being positive; engaging in positive activity. It’s a word that implies action and effort put forth to improve your circumstances. Positivity does not mean arrogance or hubris, but a quiet, inner self-confidence that — regardless of the circumstances — inspires people to keep moving forward. People who are optimistic about the future and take a positive attitude whenever possible find success in ways other people will never know. It’s not magic, but a law of nature: optimism leads to success.

Take some time to ponder and apply these three winning words and without a doubt you will find applicability in your own life.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011! Take time to enjoy the Holiday season and rejuvenate for the year ahead.


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Trust and credibility

How do you effectively develop trust in your organization? Trust is built over time as you follow through with the promises you make. Your credibility — the quality or power of inspiring belief — grows in much the same way. The principles of trust and credibility are tightly linked and build on each other.

In his book The Speed of TrustStephen M.R. Covey defines the “4 Cores of Credibility” as foundational elements that make you believable, both to yourself and to others. The first two cores deal with character, the second two with competence:

Core 1: Integrity: Many equate integrity with honesty. While honesty is a key element, integrity is much more. It’s integratedness, walking your talk and being congruent, inside and out. It’s having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. Most violations of trust are violations of integrity.

Core 2: Intent: At the core of intent are motives, agendas and the resulting behavior. Trust grows when your motives are straight forward and based on mutual benefit — when you genuinely care not only for yourself, but also for the people you interact with, lead or serve.

Core 3: Capabilities: Your capabilities are the abilities you have that inspire confidence — your talents, attitude, skills, knowledge and style. They are the means you use to produce results.

Core 4: Results: Your results comprise your track record, your performance and getting the right things done. If you don’t accomplish what you are expected to do it diminishes your credibility. On the other hand, when you achieve the results you promised, you establish a positive reputation of performing, of being a producer.

Each of these cores is vital to credibility. They work together to build trust. The strength of your character and competence equate to the strength of your leadership.

The Product Management Perspective: Trust is vital to successful product management. Product managers create value for their co-workers on other teams (e.g. development, support, etc.) by clearly defining requirements, roadmaps and portfolios. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Trust is a two-way street: product managers need to carry out their tasks in such a way that the team members can trust them. They (the PMs) also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.


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Book Review: The Right Leader

“How we go about doing the things we choose to do or are called upon to do is what makes a leader the right leader.” In his book The Right Leader: Selecting Executives Who Fit, author Nat Stoddard (with help from Claire Wyckoff) investigates the complex topic of assuring smooth executive transitions, with their primary focus at the CEO level. When a CEO does not work out for a company — which usually happens within the first 18 months — the primary reason is rarely the individual’s lack of competence; most often the problem is a result of the wrong fit.

The first section of the book focuses on finding executives who “fit” the organization. The author presents a methodology to define, measure and clarify corporate cultures to gain a clear understanding the impact they will have on a new leader’s changes for success or failure. He discusses ways to determine abilities, personality and character and map those to the company’s need and corporate culture. He develops what he calls the “universal character traits of leaders”:

Traits of personal humility: Courage, caring, compassion, respect, acceptance, kindness, optimism, gentleness, teachability and patience. He groups these as ‘private traits’ of leadership.

Traits of professional will: Integrity, persuasion, knowledge, communication, discipline, honesty, self-control, fairness, responsibility and consistency. He dubs these ‘public traits’ of leadership.

Mr. Stoddard shows how leaders not only need to possess these traits, but also keep them in balance.

The author discusses at length the complex selection methods and provides insight into fixing flawed selection processes. He discusses succession planning in detail and provides structure and practice for reducing the risks of leadership failures and ensuring that new executives have the abilities, personalities and energy to match the business needs of the organization.

If you are in the position of vetting candidates for top-level executive positions this book is a must-read. You will gain ideas and insights into finding the right leader for your organization and preparing for the complexities of succession planning. If you are not in this position, you will learn much about what it takes to become the right leader. The book cites many references to the author’s company and consulting services, which at times seems more self-serving than helpful. However, Mr. Stoddard’s experience and frequent metaphors and parables provide readers with much to learn about improving their leadership skills.

A Perl of wisdom: “The ‘right leader’ is always a trusted leader.” Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, you have the opportunity to lead. The efforts you make to become the trusted leader in your organization will pay dividends in the future regardless of the position you hold.

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