Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

When the game is on the line

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I just finished watching the end of an NBA playoff game. The home team was ahead but the losing ground. I watched the leader of the team (a point guard) take over, make the plays and win the game. He made a few mistakes (missed two free throws) but ultimately did what he needed to lead his team to the win.

Product managers share a few things in common with leaders on sports teams. They have the responsibility for the success of the product much like the franchise player has responsibility to win games. Product managers speak on behalf of the product at trade shows, in press interviews and company meeting. The star of the sports team is usually the person interviewed after the game. (Have you noticed the press only interview the star player from the winning team?) Product managers usually don’t have authority over the people on the team they rely on to succeed. Their success hinges on their ability to gain the trust of the team. Great athletes who lead their teams to success find ways to bring out the best in other players. They (usually) do not have much say in who’s on the team but they always find ways to succeed with the talent on the team.

When the game is on the line it’s the leader who steps up. As a product manager you may not have thousands of fans screaming for you, but as the leader of the team you have the opportunity to make the decisions (‘plays’) that will lead your team to success.

What have you done (or seen others do) to lead your team to succeed?

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