Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How are you using your time?

A common response when you ask somebody for their help or their input is “I don’t have enough time.” This is an interesting response given that we all have the same amount of time – 24 hours in a day. When someone doesn’t have enough time it usually means they are focused on something at that moment and don’t want (or feel it’s worth their time) to stop what they’re doing and help you. They don’t have any “white space” at the moment. Continue reading


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Build Your Network to Live Your Passion

Work Happy Now! Guest Post by David Bradford, author of Up Your Game

All of our life successes are defined within the context of their impact on people; namely ourselves first, then impact on family, community, and globally. Without people, on a small scale or large, no innovation in technology would be of significant value. Without people our lives lack depth, connection, and passion.

The Power of Personal Relationships

Two of the most talented people I have ever interacted with are Bill Gates and Gary Kildall. Gary Kildall and Bill Gates have had arguably the most profound impact on the history of personal computing of any two people except possibly Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They defined the age of personal computing, and their contributions continue to have a major impact on business in the twenty-first century.

Why is Bill Gates one of the richest men on planet Earth and Gary Kildall a forgotten footnote in the annals of the computer industry? The fundamental reason is that Gates and Microsoft were about developing relationships that enabled them to secure an agreement to supply the desktop Operating System for the IBM Personal Computer and Kildall did not. Why? What factor impeded the “Inventor of the P.C. Operating System” from securing the most important contract in the history of the computer industry, yet permitted Mr. Gates to secure the same?

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How to Become Successful in Business

Guest post by Sarah Brooks

Successful business leaders emerge from a variety of circumstances, each finding a unique path to the top. But the cream of the crop shows some similarities across its members. Certain habits lead to success in business. Whether you work for yourself or an employer, these five tips will help you succeed in business: Continue reading


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Do you show gratitude?

No matter what you are facing in life right now, there are things for which you can (and absolutely should) be grateful. Showing gratitude to others helps you see the world as a better place and move forward more effectively during the tough times. You should be thankful for the people who make your life better. Albert Schweitzer said it well: “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”

Leaders know their success depends on the united efforts of others. Showing gratitude will make you a more effective leader and will strengthen you in the following ways: Continue reading


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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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Why companies win by building relationships

For too many companies, business-to-business (B2B) customer engagement is dismally low. In most cases the people running the business don’t recognize the disengagement and don’t see it as a problem.

In his article B2B’s Win by Building Relationships, Not Selling on Price, author Marco Nink gives the following insight on the importance of building customer relationships:

Competing on price is a losing strategy, and Gallup research shows it’s an unnecessary one. B2B companies are more likely to be successful and secure in their customer relationships if they help their customers succeed. The more a B2B company helps its customers perform, the more essential it becomes. That kind of customer impact transforms B2B companies from vendors into vital partners.

To make a difference for your customers you need to help them improve performance and achieve their goals. Building solid relationships will not only help customers improve their performance, but will also increase their commitment to you. Listen to their feedback and build connections with the factors that drive their business.

Here are three simple tools that great leaders use to improve their working relationships:

  1. Listen: Leaders let other people talk and they pay attention to what they’re saying. They remove anything that would distract from their conversations and focus on what people are trying to convey.
  2. Understand: They appreciate what other people do and value their feedback. They know that taking the time to understand where people are coming from will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Acknowledge: Leaders acknowledge the contributions of others. They are quick to give credit to others for their successes. They know that customers will be more motivated to use their products and provide value if they acknowledge their contributions.

Are you building effective relationships with your customers?


The Product Management Perspective: To effectively lead the product development efforts, product managers must build meaningful relationships with their customers. Listen to them, learn from them, put their feedback into the appropriate context, then move forward and make decisions that will improve the value of your products.


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Successful companies are “nice”

“There’s no way to institutionalize or “corporatize” niceness…. It has to come from the top, and from there it will filter down…”

We live in a world where information travels quickly and powerfully. Nothing happens—good or bad—without the world knowing it. In his book Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management is over—and Collaboration Is In, author Peter Shankman shows how famously nice executives, entrepreneurs, and companies are setting the standard for success in this new world. He goes in-depth with nine hallmarks of effective leadership:

Nice CompaniesTrait #1—Enlightened Self-Interest: Creates a system where people feel secure but also accountable; where everyone feels confident enough to say, “I made a mistake.”

Trait #2—The Accessibility Factor: Shows commonsense respect and openness for and with colleagues, direct reports and rank-and-file workers and establishes a feeling of workplace equality.

Trait #3—Strategic Listening: Makes sure they understand what someone is saying instead of taking words and forgetting them later. Acts on what they see and hear in the marketplace.

Trait #4—Good Stewardship: Seeks, first and foremost, to be a good neighbor; chooses stewardship that fits with and reflects well on the business.

Trait #5—Loyalty: Allows for and encourages professional growth of employees; provides flexibility for motivated, productive workers; lets employees fail and ensures that everyone learns the lessons within the failure.

Trait #6—Glass-Half-Full POV: Acts enthusiastically about the possibilities, but is not blind to the problems. Is action-oriented, takes time to consider all options and makes timely decisions.

Trait #7—Customer Service-Centric: Practices what he or she preaches; gives the team permission to solve customer problems; knows the audience—it’s not about who you think you are, it’s about what your customer thinks.

Trait #8—Merit-Based Competitor: Observes the marketplace and examines data for competitive insights; provides customers with new reasons to return; finds new, fun ways to make change work.

Trait #9—Gives a Damn: Makes decisions based on shareholder value and impact on corporate integrity; does what’s right even if it’s not obviously profitable; accepts ultimate responsibility.

Mr. Shankman shows how leaders like JetBlue’s Dave Needleman, Andrew Taylor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Ken Chenault of Amex practice these traits to build productive, open, innovative and positive workplaces for the benefit of customers, employees, stockholders, and the bottom line. Your organization’s growth and success will increase as you apply these principles.

This book has scores of stories that illustrate how nice people and companies finish first. It’s a must-read for every leader who wants to create a successful, long-term organization.


The Product Management Perspective: It goes without saying that nice product managers have more success. Your success depends on others doing their work in the best way possible. Take Mr. Shankman’s words to heart as you take your next product to market.


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Are you building a great organization?

Whether you lead a classroom of school children or a major corporation, you should frequently ask yourself the question “am I building a great organization?” Why should you try to build a great organization? Because doing so is, for the most part, as easy as building a good one (see Good to Great chapter 9).

Here are five posts from Lead on Purpose that will help you build a great organization:

1. Taking leadership to the next level

2. The pursuit of something better

3. Developing a climate of trust

4. Leadership and collaboration

5. Becoming a decisive leader


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you have the opportunity to build great products and have a very positive influence on your overall organization. Your influence can go a long way to building a great company.


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Celebrity Leaders

Guest post by Al Gini and Ronald M. Green

As a species, we are fascinated by the concept of leadership and the conduct of individual leaders. But while we are enthralled by leaders, we are sometimes uneasy in regard to our relationship to them. We alternatively love them, hate them, desire them, despise them, seek them out, shun them. Yet, despite our confusion, we are constantly in search of the latest candidate for fame, the newest model off the assembly line, the next great hope.

Today we accord movie star status to many of our leaders. Some of them become national icons and cultural role models. For example, the president of the United States is, arguably, the most photographed person in the world. Barack Obama’s first inauguration was the most reported event of its time. Former President Bill Clinton is a celebrity. The media have tracked every turn in the life of business leaders like Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs. Where once saints dominated our imagination and were looked to for guidance, political and business leaders now play that role.

Why is leadership such a fascinating topic? Why are we so enthralled by leadership and curious about the private and public lives of leaders? Anthropologist Joseph Campbell argues that all cultures, all societies, and, by extension, all organizations (political or otherwise) are engaged in a “hero quest.” All cultures search for a unique, larger-than-life, gifted person or for a singular idea, belief, or iconic symbol that helps to organize, explain, and give meaning, purpose, and direction to life. Where once it was saints or royals who performed the hero role, today it is our political, business, or cultural icons.

Campbell believes that the “hero quest” is in effect a “leadership quest.” The hero, like the leader, imposes order, offers a moral compass, and defines the geography of life for everyone. For Campbell, leadership and the quest for a leader are anthropological constants, necessary conditions for collective/communal existence. According to Barbara Kellerman of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, putting aside the notion of type (democratic or despotic) and effectiveness (successful or unsuccessful) of a particular leader, our collective fascination with and pursuit of a champion on a white horse are part of who we are.

Ronald M. Green, Ph.D. Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, Dartmouth College. A member of Dartmouth’s Religion Department since 1969, Professor Green served from 1992-2011 as director of Dartmouth’s Ethics Institute. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Brown University and received his PhD in religious ethics from Harvard in 1973. In 1996 and 1997, Prof. Green served as Director of the Office of Genome Ethics at the National Institutes of Health. He is the author of eight books, co-author or editor of four, and has published over one hundred fifty articles in theoretical and applied ethics. In 2005, Prof. Green was named a Guggenheim Fellow. His most recent book is 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character, co-authored with Al Gini of Loyola University, Chicago

Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chair of the Department of Management in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.  He is also the co-founder and long-time Associate Editor of Business Ethics Quarterly, the journal of the Society for Business Ethics.  For over twenty-six years he has been the Resident Philosopher on National Public Radio’s Chicago affiliate, WBEZ- FM.  His books include: My Job My Self: Work and the Creation of the Modern Individual (Routledge, 2000); The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations (Routledge, 2003); Why It’s Hard to Be Good (Routledge, 2006); Seeking The Truth of Things (ACTA, 2010); The Ethics of Business with Alexei Marcoux (Rowan & Littlefield, 2012).  10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders (Riley & Blackwell, 2013). 


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers can and should play a key role in the “leadership quest.” Be the hero to the people you work with.

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