Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Book Review: The Leadership Code

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The Leadership Code

“This book attempts to do the improbable, if not the impossible. In a brief and clear way, we want to synthesize large numbers of frameworks, tools, processes, and studies of leadership to identify the essential rules that govern what all great leaders do.” Through rigorous research and significant experience, authors Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman have developed a comprehensive framework about what leaders do and why they do it.

THE LEADERSHIP CODE: Five Rules To Lead By serves as a guidebook to help readers be better leaders themselves and simultaneously help them build better leadership in their organizations.The authors encapsulate their research into five simple, yet powerful rules “all excellent leaders must follow. Since these rules form the basis for all good leaders just as our genetic code determines our elemental core as a people, we call it the leadership code.

  • Rule 1: Shape the Future: Where is your company headed? What is the direction of your career? Leaders are strategists, they answer the questions ‘where are we going?’ As practical futurists, they figure out what the organization needs to succeed and map the direction they must go based on current and planned resources. They work effectively with others to figure out how to get from the present to the desired future.
  • Rule 2: Make Things Happen: How will you make sure you get to where you’re going? If you are a leader that makes things happen you are an executor (as in, one who executes). Executors translate strategy into action. They put systems in place that help others do the same. They focus on getting things done.
  • Rule 3: Engage Today’s Talent: Who are the right people for your organization? Leaders that optimize today’s talent are referred to as talent managers. They understand what skills are required to carry out their mission, and they know how to attract the right talent to their organization.
  • Rule 4: Build the Next Generation: Who stays and sustains the next generation? Leaders with this focus are human capital developers. They ensure long-term leadership development and focus on assuring the growth and progress of their organization. They can spot future talent and understand how to develop those who possess it.
  • Rule 5: Invest in Yourself: This rule is the center of The Leadership Code and promotes personal proficiency. Leaders are learners: they learn from their successes and from failures, they read books, take classes and learn from life itself. “Effective leaders inspire loyalty and goodwill in others because they themselves act with integrity and trust.” They are decisive and have a passion for making bold and courageous moves.

To help clarify the five rules, the authors map them against two dimensions: time and attention, both of which are supported by the strength of the individual leader. The time dimension helps leaders think and plan in both the short and long term. The attention aspect provides context by which leaders gauge when their focus needs to be on building the organization and when they should focus on building individuals. They use the following visual to map the five rules to the two dimensions:

The Leadership Code

The Leadership Code

The book includes several self-assessments and references to excellent on-line resources including focused videos from the authors.

The Leadership Code is not for the “drive-by” reader who is trying to get quick ideas on how to improve. However, if you put in the time you will definitely gain new ideas and understand how to apply those ideas to your personal leadership development as well as the development of your organization. If you love to study and learn and challenge yourself, this book is a must-read.

The Product Management Perspective: Every executive who hires and develops talent in product management should read this book and apply its principles to their efforts. Product managers must be leaders, and The Leadership Code provides effective guidelines for developing leaders.

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