Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Defining Your Leadership Role

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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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