Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Knowledge is power

To what do you attribute your success?

This question was answered in a very interesting fashion on a on a podcast where Dr. Paul interviews Dayna Steele, a lively author and former rock-n-roll disk jockey in Houston. In the interview Dayna talks about meeting and associating with rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi, Sammy Hagar and other rock legends. She provides interesting insight into their lives, how they think and what drives them.

In her book Rock to the Top Dayna talks about what drives these famous rock stars to be successful. What most caught my attention was her answer to the question posed above. She used Gene Simmons, from the band Kiss, as an example: Gene said he attributes his success to his ‘voracious’ reading habit; he reads every chance he gets. Dayna then quoted Fortune article she’d read where Warren Buffett said the same thing. Two very different people, both successful in very different ways, attribute their success to their appetite for reading and gaining knowledge.

The third item in the Five Factors of Leadership asserts that knowledge is power, when (and only when) it is applied. When the knowledge is applied it increases the success of the person applying it as well as those whom he/she leads.

Consequently, success comes from combining three important aspects of knowledge:

  • Reading: Acquiring new ideas
  • Thinking: Reflecting on the impressions gained through reading
  • Acting: Applying the knowledge gained through effort and hard work.

The combination of these actions will improve your success.

The Product Management Perspective: The process of defining and creating successful products requires a commitment to understanding your markets and the role (or position) your products will play therein. Gaining this understanding requires reading, thinking and acting. As the product manager, you are in a unique position to improve your company’s standing (i.e. power) in the marketplace through acquiring and applying knowledge.

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Act outside the box

We often hear the saying “think outside the box” (or the “bun” in the case of Taco Bell). This saying implies we need to think in different ways and see things through a new lens. Looking through the new lens helps us form a clearer picture of what we need to do to improve our situation. However, thinking is mostly passive and by itself is not enough; we need to act, or be active.

Acting outside the box means putting into action the things we think about when we think outside the box. As leaders in any capacity we need to act on the ideas we come up during brainstorming sessions and see them through to a successful end. I like how Timothy Ferris states it in his book The 4-Hour Work Week: “It isn’t enough to think outside the box. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box.”