Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Guest Post: Three Leadership Lessons from Four Great Visionaries

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By Katheryn Rivas

 We are surrounded by leaders every day of our lives. You see them on television. You read about them in newspapers and history books. You even see them as you walk into your job each day. It takes a lot of hard work and inner courage to be a great leader, and the journey is never ending. Even when you think you’ve succeeded, you still have the rest of your life ahead of you to derail your present success.

One of the greatest gifts leaders like Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and numerous other inspirational figures gave us was their words of wisdom. There may come times when you are placed in leadership roles. In those circumstances, people often crave some wisdom to get them through the process. Below are four inspirational leaders and three important lessons we can all learn from them.

Steve Jobs- Why being fired isn’t the worst thing in the world

Despite pioneering and successfully growing Apple out of his garage, Steve Jobs was fired from the innovative company in the late eighties. What would have seemed like the most embarrassing public ousting of all time turned out to be the best thing ever for Jobs. He moved forward and started NeXT, a computer technology company that later created Pixar and the movie Toy Story. Jobs’ rise to the top earned him back his job at Apple and a place in history as an inspirational leader and legend. Being fired from a job you aren’t satisfied with or aren’t doing well at may initially feel like the worst thing in the world, but try and see it as just another stepping stone. Use this unfortunate opportunity to seek out the job you always wanted, and as Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

See more of Jobs’ wisdom here.

Oprah Winfrey- Do all that you can and then surrender the rest

Oprah seems to have success, fame, and fortune following her at every corner. But when it came time for Oprah to audition for the role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” she was initially not successful. After auditioning multiple times for the film, Winfrey had not heard an answer on whether or not she had won the role of Sofia, and casting agents told her that “real actresses” were also auditioning for the role and that she should not get her hopes up. In Oprah’s mind, there was nothing more she wanted than to be in “The Color Purple.” She believed it was her destiny to have this role and she had worked her tail off to earn it, but the cards did not seem to line up. Finally, when it seemed Oprah was not going to get the role, she decided to surrender her sadness and be satisfied in knowing she had done all that she could. Ironically, moments later Spielberg called Oprah to let her know she had won the part. Leaders are challenged all the time, but there is only so much we can do. Do all that you can, and then surrender the rest to the fates. Trust that your destiny knows what you are meant for more than you do.

See more of her wisdom here.

Woodward and Bernstein- Follow your gut and don’t let intimidation stand in your way

When Woodward and Bernstein first got wind of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Water Office Complex, they smelled something fishy. The two “Washington Post” journalists were relative nobodies when they set out to follow the trail. Nobody could have predicted that their trail would lead all the way up to Nixon in the Watergate Scandal, most especially Woodward and Bernstein. It took a long time, and the duo made a lot of mistakes along the way, but they never stopped pushing to get their questions answered. When they did get their questions answered, they changed the course of history. These two journalists followed their gut, and that’s something more of us should do in our work lives. Trust your intuition and never stop following the trail. As long as you keep working hard, you’ll find what you’re seeking.

See more of their wisdom here.

It’s never easy taking on a leadership role, but having some words of wisdom from the great leaders of our time makes the task less fearful. Use these three tidbits of wisdom in cultivating your leadership role.

Katheryn Rivas is a regular contributor to Online University. Like the name suggests, the online universities blog focuses on higher education and trends. She welcomes your comments at katherynrivas87[at]gmail[dot]com.


The Product Management Perspective: As Steve Jobs says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. Most people in a given company, and especially those working to create products, look to the product manager for direction and consider him/her the “CEO of the product.” It’s a great opportunity to show vision and leadership.

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