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Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Unemotional Leadership—an Oxymoron

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Guest post by Andrew Cravenho

I recently watched a rerun of Executive Suite, based on Cameron Hawley’s book of the same name. In this black and white classic, William Holden portrays a junior executive with great vision but limited executive experience. Upon the untimely death of the revered company president, the board must select a new leader.

The leading candidate is the scheming CFO played by Frederic March, a passionless, colorless bean counter groping for power, but with no vision beyond increasing dividend payouts to stockholders. In the final scene, Holden’s character displays his tremendous passion and sweeping vision for the direction he wants the company to take and ultimately gains the presidency.

This 1954 movie brought the truly timeless and consequential components of leadership into focus for me.

Emotion Is Integral to Quality Leadership

If you were to think of five exceptional leaders in business, politics, journalism, the armed services or of nations, I’m betting that the names which come to mind will be leaders capable of expressing emotion and passion. Names in business like Lee Iacocca, in politics such as Robert F. Kennedy, in journalism like Edward R. Murrow, in the military a General like George S. Patton and of nations the likes of Winston Churchill; all great leaders by any measure.

The common thread connecting these names is passion, others might call it charisma. Regardless of the moniker, the fact is these great leaders were capable of projecting their vision in an emotional and convincing manner. They were masters of motivation. They were capable of riveting your attention and they did so by revealing their emotional commitment to their vision.

The Components of Charisma

Defining charisma is difficult. While we know it when we see it, like love, it is difficult to define because both charisma and love are experienced on an emotional rather than rational level. Nevertheless, we can look at the important elements common to charismatic leaders:

  • Self-confidence
  • Speak with conviction (and a sprinkle of humor)
  • Approachable
  • Capacity to make you feel important
  • Good listeners

Let’s examine these traits in greater depth and more to the point, discuss how to cultivate these traits in yourself and become a charismatic leader.

Self-Confidence

We are all familiar with the idiom, “comfortable in your own skin.” This is what I mean by self-confidence. Those with charisma understand who they are. They are authentic and pretend to be no one other than themselves. This article posted on LiveLesium offers six tips for developing this important facet of the charismatic personality—confidence.  To paraphrase:

  1. Stop worrying about what other people think of you
  2. Always be positive
  3. Overcome the fear of failure so you can do the right thing rather than the thing you believe others expect you to do
  4. Help others to enhance your worth as a person
  5. Believe in yourself and trust your instincts
  6. Live your life with zeal and enthusiasm

Speak with Conviction

Armed with your new found self-confidence, speaking with conviction will be a breeze. Avoid tentative phrases such as I hope, I think or I feel. These words do not convey confidence. Words like certain, clearly and positive are appropriate to the new and confident you. Don’t be afraid to inject a little humor—this doesn’t mean telling tasteless jokes. Humor adds to your humanity.

Approachable

Smile … a lot. Body language is also important. Standing with your arms folded across your chest sends the signal, “don’t invade my space.” Carry yourself in a cheerful and open manner. When you meet someone, be sure to smile, look them in the eye and shake hands with a firm, confident grip. Most of all, be authentic … no fake smiles!

Make Others Feel Important

This may take some practice. We all have an ego. Learning to suppress yours in conversation is an important skill. You have to make the conversation about the person you are speaking with, not about you. The difficulty you encounter in accomplishing this will be directly proportional to the size of your ego.

Be a Good Listener

Start by learning to remember names. When meeting someone for the first time it is always a good practice to repeat their name. You might say, for example, “Herbert, it’s so good to meet you!” Use the person’s name during the course of your ensuing conversation.

Show you are interested, engaged and empathetic. This is not the time to check your wristwatch, answer your cell or gaze about the room looking for your next meet and greet.

Clearly being a good leader requires that you draw from your emotional reservoir. This does not mean that you should abandon control of your emotions, but it does mean that you should feel comfortable expressing them. No matter how wonderful your vision, if you cannot generate an interested following, it isn’t likely to go anywhere. Generating that interest is what leadership is all about and charisma plays a large role in successful leadership. That is why unemotional leadership is an oxymoron.

Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC Funding, an innovative invoice finance company. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow.


The Product Management Perspective: As product manager you play a key role in the success of your products. You make sure everyone on the team is working effectively and all the parts come together properly. Strengthen your self-confidence and improve your emotional leadership—your customers will be the beneficiaries.

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