Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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The value of persistence

Let’s face it…some days are tough, some months are long, and occasionally some years seem endless. When you’re going through difficult times it can be tough just to get out of bed in the morning, and rolling up your sleeves and working can seem nearly impossible in these difficult down times. With that said, we (at least everyone reading this blog) know that tough times come, and they go. And those who brush it off and keep going will succeed in the end.

Former US Secretary of State Collin Powell summed it up nicely when he said; “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.”

Achieving success requires a continuation of effort. Mark Sanborn calls this Staying Power. When you face a big project, you spend time preparing and then exert increased effort to finish on time and with high quality. When you finish you do not pat yourself on the back as if you have “arrived” but you look forward to the next opportunity. You may (and should) take time to celebrate after completing a successful project, but the next day you get up and go back to ‘training’ for the next big project, just like you would train for the next race. It’s the continuation of successes that becomes the success.

Remember, success is the journey, not the destination. Persistence keeps you moving forward on that journey.


The Product Management Perspective: You can’t overstate the importance of persistence in creating great products. Things do not always go as planned. Great product managers learn from past mistakes and continue to press forward regardless of the obstacles they face. Product success does not come overnight, but instead comes over time, though consistent application of sound principles.


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Persistence and leadership

Great leaders are persistent. They persevere through trials and develop the ability to weather tough storms. Calvin Coolidge, 30th US President, said:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Persistence is a key characteristic of great leaders. Gaining it requires determination; a mindset that no matter what you will stick to your principles and goals. Achieving success requires hard work and a mindset to move forward regardless of the obstacles.

Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) articulates it powerfully in its IBD’s 10 Secrets to Success: “Be persistent and work hard. Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.”


The Product Management Perspective: The importance of persistence in creating great products cannot be overstated. Things do not always go as planned. Great product managers learn from past mistakes and continue to press forward regardless of the obstacles they face. Product success does not come overnight, but instead comes over time, though consistent application of sound principles.


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Tenacity in 2012

Successful people share several common traits; tenacity is at the top. Merriam-Webster defines tenacious as “persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired.” Think about your favorite athlete, actor, business leader, or other successful person and you’re sure to find tenacity as one of their defining characteristics.

Tenacity fuels persistence. Persistence is analogous to running a marathon. To run a successful marathon you have to spend ample time (months or more) preparing. The time you spend, and what you do leading up to the race, will determine how well you perform during the race. To succeed in leadership you have to work hard and continually hone your interpersonal skills. You find ways to motivate successful teamwork and positive interaction. Persistence means you keep at it (whatever ‘it’ is) for the long haul.

But there’s something more about tenacity (than just persistence). Tenacity means believing in yourself when others doubt you. It’s giving that extra bit of effort at the critical moment. It’s fighting through the pain, the doubt and the discouragement when things don’t go exactly how you expect. Tenacity requires that never-give-up effort that pushes you to go beyond what you thought you were capable of doing.

How will you show tenacity in 2012?


The Product Management Perspective: Tenacity is key for creating great products. Product success does not come overnight, but instead comes over time, through consistent application of sound principles. Let tenacity drive your product vision; your company (and its shareholders) will thank you.


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Guest Post: 3 Great Leaders and Their Unlikely Successes

By Anna Miller

We often study the principles of leadership in order to become leaders ourselves. However, as helpful as reading about leadership from a conceptual angle can be, the most effective way to learn is by example. Here are a few well-known leaders who are perfect examples of the saying, “Great leaders are made, not born.”

1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, celebrated CEO of Apple, didn’t start out with his vision of innovation that is the hallmark of his wildly successful company. He dropped out of college, and first worked a small-time job at Atari in order to save money to make a trip to India seeking spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps the greatest lesson leaders can learn from Jobs is that developing an ability to anticipate future needs is central to leadership. Jobs famously said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” This ability of anticipating future needs can only be developed by actively working on relationships in order to know people on a deeper level.

2. Henry Ford

Henry Ford is the quintessence of a great leader. Ford made affordable cars a reality with his model T, he pioneered the idea of assembly-line production, and eventually became one of the most successful industrialists to date. Like all great leaders, Ford was not afraid to take risks. He was sharply criticized for his offering $5 per day wage during the Great Depression. Nobody thought that doubling workers’ wage could possibly reap more profit for a company. But it worked; there was less employee turnover, the best workers from the nation flocked to his company, and as a result, less training was required, cutting costs enormously. Another leadership quality that Ford emphasized was life-long learning. Ford had various interests and actively cultivated each one. He once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning is young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

3. Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, among thousands of other useful inventions, failed spectacularly many times before finally being successful. And it was his attitude toward failure that kept him persistent. Edison once said, “I have not failed, I’ve only found 1,000 different ways that won’t work.” Edison is thus a perfect example of that one quality that all great leaders possess — accepting failure as part of the process that leads to eventual success. Where others become disheartened by failure, leaders use it to fuel their motivation.

There are millions of examples of successful leaders out there, and not all of them are as famous as the ones presented here. The key thing to remember about leadership, as evidenced by these inspiring lives, is that persistence in the face of failure, ridicule, or just regular old stagnation, and above all, trust in one’s self and others, is what separates leaders from followers.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topics of online degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: anna22.miller [at]gmail.com.



The Product Management Perspective: These three leaders provide good examples of leadership in product management. Steve Jobs is a great (perhaps the best) example of understanding your markets. He understands his customers perhaps even better than they understand themselves. He is the master at anticipating future trends and turning them into reality. Henry Ford became the subject matter expert not just in cars, but in getting cars to market at a low-enough price that consumers could afford to buy his products. He took calculated risks and was rewarded accordingly. Thomas Edison brought new meaning to the word ‘persistent.’ He continually looked for new ways to do things, and never settled for ‘good enough.’ He was the thought leader of his time. Learning and implementing behaviors from these (and other great) leaders will improve your success as a product manager.

 


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Leadership and learning

One of the key tenets of leadership is the learning. Great leaders are learners. They read voraciously. They write and teach what they learn. Learning is as much a part of their life as eating. These are a few of my favorite quotes that illustrate the importance of learning:

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. -Eric Hoffer
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. -John F. Kennedy
Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence. -Colin Powell

Make it your objective to be a life-long learner; every aspect of your life will benefit.

The Product Management Perspective: Technology continues to evolve ever more rapidly. Markets change quickly. User interests come on speedily and then change overnight. How can you — the product manager — keep up? You have to be a learner. You read books, magazines and other resources that provide relevant information. You read blogs and follow thought-leaders on Twitter; you watch what they are talking about learn as much as you can. Most importantly, you open the door to new ideas and new ways of doing your job.


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Leadership and persistence

Persistence is one of the key characteristics of great leaders. Gaining it requires determination and a mindset that — no matter what happens — you will stick to your principles and goals. Persistence in leadership is analogous to running a marathon. To run a successful marathon you have to spend ample time (months or more) preparing. The time you spend, and what you do leading up to the race, will determine how well you perform during the race. To succeed in leadership you have to work hard and continually hone your interpersonal skills. You find ways to motivate successful teamwork and positive interaction.

Great leaders are persistent. They persevere through trials and develop the ability to weather tough storms. Calvin Coolidge, 30th US President, summed it up nicely:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Success in leadership comes from developing and perfecting persistence and determination.


The Product Management Perspective: The importance of persistence in creating great products cannot be overstated. Things do not always go as planned. Great product managers learn from past mistakes and continue to press forward regardless of the obstacles they face. Product success does not come overnight, but instead comes over time, though consistent application of sound principles.


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Forward progress

A key axiom for today’s leaders is that forward progress comes through hard work and persistence. This applies not only to your progress as a leader, but also to the progress of the people you lead. The ups and downs of daily interaction can inspire or drain, depending on your attitude and perseverance. To make progress you have to look at each situation and determine what you can do improve to your success given the circumstances. As Tom Peters says so frankly, “Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead.”

You need to look at your situation and determine whether you are progressing in the direction you want to go. If not, make the changes necessary and start moving in the right direction. The following quote by Frederick Williams provides additional insight: “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks that will help you move forward in the direction you want to go.


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you need to focus on your products’ direction and success; you need to collect the right market input and turn it into great products. At the same time you also need to focus on your career and your personal progress. With the right attitude you can do both at the same time.


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The power of persistence

Great leaders are tested and tried in many ways. They persevere through trials and develop the ability to weather tough storms. Calvin Coolidge, 30th US President, summed it up nicely:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Success comes from developing and perfecting persistence and determination.

As a side note, I found an interesting (and somewhat related) article contrasting two of pro basketball’s biggest stars: Kobe vs. Lebron: how leadership trumps likeability. It brings out the importance of persistence in leading teams as a player.


The Product Management Perspective: The importance of persistence in creating great products cannot be overstated. Things do not always go as planned. Great product managers learn from past mistakes and continue to press forward regardless of the obstacles they face. Product success does not come overnight, but instead comes over time, though consistent application of sound principles.


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Book Review: Lead Well and Prosper

lead-well-and-prosper“‘I don’t have time’ is the most frequently used excuse for incompetence.” According to Nick McCormick, author of LEAD WELL AND PROSPER: 15 Successful Strategies for Becoming a Good Manager, by focusing on specific strategies you will use your time more effectively and improve your leadership capabilities.

Nick points out that management is in a state of crisis. Regardless of the numerous books on leadership and management, “we managers can’t seem to get it right.” This problem has lead to a cottage industry built upon ridiculing management — a comic strip, a TV show and numerous other outlets.

The book highlights 15 successful strategies to help managers improve their effectiveness:

  1. Adopt a serving attitude
  2. Teach
  3. Provide honest and timely feedback
  4. Share information
  5. Listen
  6. Treat people like human beings
  7. Set goals, plan and execute
  8. Learn
  9. Do the right thing
  10. Embrace the uncomfortable
  11. Clean up your own house first
  12. Persist
  13. Do what you say you’ll do
  14. Always follow up
  15. Plan your week

Lead Well and Prosper is a quick read with valuable information. The strategies are not new and have been written about in much more detail by numerous authors. However, the book’s organization makes it a valuable tool to help struggling organizations improve the capabilities of their management teams. If your organization is mired in mediocrity, your people will benefit by reading this book.

The book is organized into short chapters by strategy. Each chapter opens with dialog from fictional characters that help the reader understand how not to apply the topic for that chapter. At the end of each chapter is a concise list of “dos” and “don’ts” that apply to the strategy, and immediate actions the reader can take to apply what was taught. With these iconic helps you can easily grasp the main themes in under an hour.

The Product Management Perspective: Like other leadership books reviewed here, Lead Well and Prosper provides useful direction for product managers working hard to lead their teams to success. Nearly all the strategies can be applied to making you more effective in your work as a product manager, and building your credibility as a leader. It’s worth a self-evaluation to assure you are doing the basics (as described in this book) well.


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The habit of learning

The fact that you are reading this post is a good indication that you are a learner. A habit is an acquired pattern of behavior that is often associated with a vice. However, good habits are important, and the habit of learning is critical to success.

I believe people should study a little bit every day. It should become habitual, like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, having a shower or getting dressed. Study the mind, the laws of the universe and paradigms. There’s enough information on those subjects to keep a person studying forever. -Bob Proctor

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. -Eric Hoffer

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence. -Colin Powell

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. -John F. Kennedy

Continue in your quest to learn new things; you will find treasures on your journey.

The Product Management Perspective: To enhance your learning in product management, take advantage of the many great resources available. A great place to start is the Product Management feed on Alltop.

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