Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Six Channels of Influence: How to Navigate Them Effectively

Guest post by Willy Steiner

The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Nikola Tesla

Humans are very complex organisms. We are the sum of the various influences of our lives – family, educational, religious, social, national and organizational. I had a client who worked quite a few years in a top-down, command-and-control type of environment. When his boss concurred with his recommendations, that seal of approval, that authority, was all he needed to influence things. When I got to know him he had moved to another organization and proceeded to start with buy-in from his boss prior to the implementation of various solutions. But he got significant cultural resistance because this was not a command-and-control type of environment. He had to work hard developing relationships to get buy-in and reduce resistance. Once we appreciated the differences in influence style between the different organizations, I was very proud to see how my client worked hard to adapt to this new model of influence in the new organization. Continue reading


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How deep is your desire to succeed?

As I’ve gotten older and seen more the of what the world offers, I’ve come to realize that success depends as much on the desire of an individual as anything else. Hard work, persistence and intelligence also factor in, and depending on the endeavor (for which one is striving to succeed) these may play a bigger role. However, without a burning inner desire, your chance of success is greatly diminished.

While there are many ways desire helps you meet objectives, here are three factors that, if focused on, will accellerate your path to success: Continue reading


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Why leaders need a long-term vision

Why are you in business? What drives your daily activities—your long-term vision or making the numbers this quarter? If you’re a board member, do you incentivize your executives to make a long-term contribution for the company or to keep the shareholders happy this quarter? If these questions cause you any discomfort, your priorities might be out-of-line with your core values.

In a recent interview with McKinsey & Company, Bill George—Harvard Business School professor and former Medtronic CEO—said the following: Anyone who’s willing to postpone the long-term strategies to make the short-term numbers is in route to going out of business.

In the full interview—Bill George on rethinking capitalism—Mr. George discusses important topics including insisting on the long term, managing expectations and creating lasting value. I recommend you spend a few minutes listening to Bill’s interview; it’s well worth your time.


The Product Management Perspective: One of the key aspects of product management is creating a long-term vision for a product/portfolio. Some are uncomfortable putting too much effort in looking to the future because things change. The core of this discomfort is not so much that things might change, as it is that they will be perceived as being wrong.

Don’t let the possibility that you’ll be wrong stop you from looking towards the future. Regardless of whether you end up right or wrong (or anywhere in between), the efforts you put into planning for the future will pay off. You will learn things you would have missed had you not tried. Be the leader—the CEO—of your product and create a long-term vision of how it will create value for your customers.


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Are You an Effective Business Leader?

Guest post by Mike Gardener

With the economic climate as tough as it currently is, leadership qualities are the main cornerstones of success when it comes to virtually all kinds of businesses. But what are the most important qualities when it comes to effective business leadership? And what are the essential characteristics of leaders that can inspire others to succeed in challenges that would otherwise seem impossible?

Good Judgment

First of all, every business leader that wants to be successful in his or her field needs to know the field inside out and understand even the smallest details, which are sometimes the most important factors in business projects. With good judgment, business leaders will be able to delegate all the task properly and to the right workers, meaning that everything will be done as efficiently as possible and without any wasted time or resources. To find out more about the topic, read this HBR article.

Dedication

Second is the dedication factor. It is of the utmost importance that the person who wants to lead is also the person that is the most dedicated to the goal at hand. Without dedication, there is no chance of having the entire team come together and remain inspired to do well. Success might come nonetheless, but it will be completely random and it will depend on many unrelated factors.

Responsibility

To make things even more complicated, all business leaders that have ambitions to succeed in their fields need to be able to take responsibility for their decisions and actions. That might seem like a very straightforward thing to do, but it often turns out to be one of the issues that many simply cannot overcome. The thing is that it is usually very easy to take responsibility whenever things are going according to the plan. Accepting responsibility for failures, however, is a much more difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most essential challenges that business leaders need to face (and professional responsibility is obviously not the only thing to care about, social responsibility is yet another thing that has to be accepted). Honesty and willingness to accept defeats can go a long way – and, together, they can help leaders turn a bunch of skilled workers into a true team.

Creativity

Finally, leaders that want to succeed also need to be creative to overcome all the difficulties that might arise at any given moment. Original plans are worth sticking to and they will work in the majority of cases – but, from time to time, it is also quite important to innovate and change strategies at a moment’s notice. And that is when creativity will be crucial to the overall chances of succeeding. Successful business leaders will recognize those occasions and won’t be afraid to change strategies in order to find a way around the obstacles that might be found along the way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also possible to find schools that emphasize creativity in business leadership.

Uniting Through a Vision

There is, however, a bottom line to all these things. Namely, there is one ability that every effective business leader simply has to have – the ability to unite everything under one clear vision. You might be a leader that knows his or her business field inside out and still remain relatively unsuccessful if you are unable to present a vision that others could follow and a goal that others could strive for. The fact that the most successful business leaders (check this list for a good idea about how visions and businesses are related to each other) are also often regarded as true visionaries is definitely not accidental. The very opposite of that is true – it shows exactly what are the most important qualities when it comes to business leadership.

Mike Gardener is one of the owners of TheOfficeProviders.com , a company that provides office space for all kinds of businesses. Visit their website in order to find a suitable office space for your own business or just to learn more about the company itself.


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Essential Leadership Traits

Essential Leadership Traits in the Successful Small Business Owner — Guest post by Linda Forshaw

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell

In the course of an ordinary working day, a small business owner might wear many hats, but rarely is there one as important as that of leader. All businesses, no matter their size, require a strong leader at the helm. The temptation of the small business owner may be to get “stuck in” and adopt a role as a pseudo employee. While there is merit attached to not being afraid to get your hands dirty, in essence to lead by example, the smart small business owner will place a greater emphasis on a wider leadership strategy.

Communication must be crystal clear
Having a clear vision is essential, but communicating that vision is an absolute must. Providing employees with a roadmap of where you want to be helps everyone to stay on the same page; to keep track of the bigger picture and work consistently toward achieving it. A lack of clarity filtered down from above will only ever lead to missed opportunities and ultimately spell trouble for the small business owner.

Strong relationships have a very long reach
Solid relationships lie at the very core of the operations of any successful small business. To listen to others is a vital skill, but it is also imperative to understand and to acknowledge what others are saying. People are the greatest resource in any business, so engaging in a meaningful dialog with employees, customers, and other persons of importance is a fundamental part of building relationships in the vein of strong leadership.

The best kind of culture comes from above
Most people will understand the destructive nature that can result from a culture that focuses almost exclusively on backstabbing and blame. The strong small business owner will set an example of trust and cooperation. The best place for a positive company culture to come from is from the top down. Passion, compassion, energy, and motivation – they are all an essential part of a solution-centric attitude that is best served from above.

Give them room to grow and you will prosper
As the old adage goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” To put it into a more modern context, the most successful of small business owners inherently understand the potential value of contributions that are made by others. The only way to benefit from such contributions is to allow them to happen in the first place. You never really know where the next great idea will come from, and if it comes from one of your employees, you want to be the one to hear about it first.

How will you lead today?

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. The leading contributor to DegreeJungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay


The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers build strong relationships with people, both inside and outside the company; clear communication is key. PMs, like small business owners, need to listen to others, and work with them to release successful products.


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Qualities of a Good Business Leader

Guest post by William Lewis

A sound education in business is just one component of being a good leader; to truly take your company to the next level, you must also possess certain qualities that come from within. Think about some of the business leaders you admire – maybe it’s someone famous who has changed the world with their product or service; maybe it’s your own father or mother, someone you’ve grown up with in close proximity and had years to study. Whoever it is, successful business leaders are born and made, and chances are good they all possess the following traits, either naturally or through practice and acquisition. Even better for you, if you’re ready to become the true head of your company and embrace progress, it’s never too late for you to develop them with some concentrated effort and dedication.

Courage

Having the gumption to step into a leadership role (and stay there) takes courage right off the bat. But more than that, you must be brave enough to take chances, both on opportunities and people; you must be able to stand up to detractors from outside and within; and you need to be able to see past the minor bumps and have the wherewithal to pursue the future of your business despite the blockage of the present. Further, you have to be able to say and do the hard things, even though it might not make you popular, if it’s the right thing for the situation.

Vision

Knowing where you want your business to go and having goals for the both the short-term and the long-term are very important. It’s a lot like writing a term paper. You start with an outline of the entire essay, knowing that you want to get from point A to point B and knowing the essence of the message that you wish to convey. As you get into the nuts and bolts of actually writing the piece, you will add, delete, revise and edit, and maybe even the entire thesis will change, but every small part, every little paragraph, works toward realizing the greater whole. Staying on course is easier when you have a clear vision of where you want to go, even if it changes along the way.

Understanding/Empathy

People can tell when someone just doesn’t get them. More than that, they can tell when someone isn’t even trying to. And this makes them not want to work for them or do business with them. The show Undercover Boss on ABC helps illustrate, however unrealistic the situations actually are, that the people on top can sometimes lose touch with what’s important and real for the people they employ. Furthermore, in business dealings, you never know who you are going to meet, so keeping an open mind, educating yourself and trying to put yourself into the shoes of others will take you far.

Adaptability

The fact is, being unable to adapt means you will miss out on a lot of opportunities and your business will only suffer for it. Globalization has ensured that information and data spreads faster than you can click a mouse. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t stubbornly resist new ways of doing things. Listen to the people around you, absorb what they bring to the table, and be willing to try. Strategic thinking is an important aspect to all management training programs; if you can embrace that with an open mind, you will be able to analyze possibilities with a clear, unbiased head.

Responsibility

As the head of your company, you will shoulder a lot, and rightly so. You should also learn to shoulder the blame when it’s your fault. Human nature is such that we’re quick to point fingers and assign responsibility to others, but that’s a failing good leaders must overcome.

Confidence

Not to be confused with arrogance, you have to believe in every aspect of your business: you, your partners, your employees and your product or service. If you don’t…who will?

Sincerity

None of these traits matter a whit if you don’t have the sincerity to back them up. Pretending and play-acting at understanding is obvious. Essentially lying to your employees about a job well done is both cowardly and a sure way to run your business into the ground. If you’re not feeling sincere, make the necessary changes and improvements until you are.

William Lewis is a contributing writer and MBA graduate who has successfully created and sold two businesses thus far, and who is currently heading his third. His influences include Bill Gates and his older brother, Paul.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers act as the CEO of their products. Leadership is key to succeeding in this role. The principles discussed here will help you focus your efforts in the right areas to improve the success of your products.


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Defining Your Leadership Role

Guest post by Kyle O’Brien


Leadership and motivation are practically synonymous in certain sectors. If one’s not holding their end of the bargain, the other side may suffer. A disconnect of communication, more or less. As a leader, you need to direct in a confident manner and push yourself and the business model with every bump in the road that may come your way.

A leader must always be on point with their influence onto others and also be willing to adapt accordingly if things are veering off in another direction. As technology seemingly changes with every passing day, so too must one’s willingness to react and lead for the better.


Speaking in a business sense, leadership can be defined in a number of ways. Whether you’re revered or reviled is up to you.

You Can Be Authoritative And Fair-Minded

In some circles, people may view descriptors like “authoritative” and “balanced” as needing to be placed in separate corners. Being fair and balanced in one’s decision-making shouldn’t be labeled as being weak or that you’re somehow catering to the masses and will eventually be taken advantage of down the road. The same notion that being authoritativeputs you out as unfair and disconnected from the company culture is hogwash as well.

Once more, saying the two mentalities cannot coexist with one another is false. Leaders are those who have the courage to be authoritative when the time calls for it, but at the same time leadership is reflective of having an open mind to any and all business decisions, whether crucial or inconsequential.

Take Employee Motivation To Heart

Motivating your employees isn’t a one-shot mindset in just assuming they’re going to be motivated for the sake of it. There are numerous studies out there, speaking just to attention spans alone, that indicate otherwise. You need a plan in place that allows for employee feedback on how and why their productivity is constrained. Maybe it’s the office environment and how their cubicle makes them feel disconnected from their fellow employees? Or it could be a lack of trust within their department and how they feel their opinions have no bearing with a project?

Leadership is about listening and reacting. It’s about constructive criticism within the ranks and determining which issues and concerns may be more problematic than others and dealing with those in a timely manner. The sooner you accommodate, or at least entertain, employee views of their standing within the workplace, the more likely you’ll end up cultivating a company culture almost everyone can appreciate.

Admitting Mistakes And Faults

One of the biggest character statements to be made is when you’re able to admit fault and fix the issue. Every business has had flaws at one time or another. It could be poor training habits for new hires, not tracking how and when projects are carried out, not dealing with post-mortem project proceedings such as following up with customer reviews, concerns and so forth, or maybe it’s not realizing you’ve created a “boiler room” effect with your company where employees feel the need to walk on eggshells at all times. The latter may subsequently label your business as a high turnover destination, which even if it results in moderate profits, can hold back long-term scalability to try creative outlets for products or other extensions.

Again, admitting your mistakes isn’t a weakness. It’s a leadership attribute that sends a clear message to your staff that changes need to be made. And if there’s ever a time to put aside hubris, it’s for the well-being of your company vision.

Hiring And Promoting Positive Thinkers

I’ve never liked pessimism. It’s one of the cheapest cop-outs to practically any decision. Saying, “It’s too hard”, “We’re gonna fail come deadline time”, “What’s the point in hearing that person out?” and [fill in the blank]. Pessimism is a virus to any co-worker within earshot because the more negative feedback gets passed around, the easier it is for others to pick and prod the same notions.

Not that everyone will fall prey to it. Strong minds can think past the fog.

It’s clear pessimism should be misdirected elsewhere. And as a leader, you must first instill optimism in yourself and your company beliefs. To see that through, it should be a no-brainer to build up departments with employees and managers who carry positive thoughts and proactive actions day in and day out. And that doesn’t imply that you need a whole army of “yes men/women” alongside. You want free thinkers who aren’t afraid to give input and are not shy from taking criticism on a project. As long as it’s done in a respective and constructive manner, the bond forged as a result is something money can’t buy.

I’m sure there are plenty other characteristics that help define leadership. How do you define yourself as a leader? What drives you to never rest on your laurels?

Kyle O’Brien is a freelance writer covering many facets of the business industry, from basic employee motivation tips to understanding company structure and how to improve it. He has consulted for ej4, a performance improvement company focused on creating unique e-learning videos for businesses in the form of off the shelf training, project management, various business book summaries and much more.


The Product Management Perspective: The common thread that runs through Lead on Purpose is leading regardless of your role in the organization. As a product manager you are a key leader in the organization (or at least you should be). You set the direction for your product(s) – the key assets that drive revenue. Take stock in principles discussed above and use them as motivation to improve your leadership influence in your organization.

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