Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Unemotional Leadership—an Oxymoron

Guest post by Andrew Cravenho

I recently watched a rerun of Executive Suite, based on Cameron Hawley’s book of the same name. In this black and white classic, William Holden portrays a junior executive with great vision but limited executive experience. Upon the untimely death of the revered company president, the board must select a new leader.

The leading candidate is the scheming CFO played by Frederic March, a passionless, colorless bean counter groping for power, but with no vision beyond increasing dividend payouts to stockholders. In the final scene, Holden’s character displays his tremendous passion and sweeping vision for the direction he wants the company to take and ultimately gains the presidency. Read Article


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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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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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Three timely 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. If only it could be this way all year long….

There are many things that contribute to the feelings that abound during the holiday season; however, writing about all of them would be futile. Given the focus of the Lead on Purpose blog, the following three words seem timely and fitting:

  • 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 these three timely words and without a doubt you will find applicability in your own life.

I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2009! Take time to enjoy the Holiday season and rejuvenate for the year ahead.

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