Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Six Channels of Influence: How to Navigate Them Effectively

Guest post by Willy Steiner

The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Nikola Tesla

Humans are very complex organisms. We are the sum of the various influences of our lives – family, educational, religious, social, national and organizational. I had a client who worked quite a few years in a top-down, command-and-control type of environment. When his boss concurred with his recommendations, that seal of approval, that authority, was all he needed to influence things. When I got to know him he had moved to another organization and proceeded to start with buy-in from his boss prior to the implementation of various solutions. But he got significant cultural resistance because this was not a command-and-control type of environment. He had to work hard developing relationships to get buy-in and reduce resistance. Once we appreciated the differences in influence style between the different organizations, I was very proud to see how my client worked hard to adapt to this new model of influence in the new organization. Continue reading



How do you build the right culture in your company?

People in countries, organizations and companies tend to behave in similar ways. The term culture has come to represent this idea: the way people think, behave or work. The culture of a company can have a major effect on the value—in terms of products and services—that a company provides to its customers.

A recent Gallup study analyzed data from more than 30,000 employees in various industries to determine what characteristics led to companies creating a high-performance culture that improves top- and bottom-line business metrics. The analysis revealed six crucial components on which companies should focus: Continue reading


Six Principles of Persuasion for Leaders

Guest post by Brad Zomick

There is no worse feeling then when you are trying to lead a group and no one on the team is taking you seriously. Nobody listening to you makes it difficult, or even impossible, to achieve your shared goal. With these short principles of persuasion, we hope to put those experiences in the past.

Many studies have been done about the science of persuasion, and Robert Cialdini is perhaps one of the most respected experts in the field. He has distilled persuasion in to 6 principles that have been widely adopted in the field of marketing. Today we are going see how to apply these skills to real-world situations to master the art of leadership.

Principle #1 – Reciprocity

This one goes back to the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” Regardless of your rank and command, if you want to earn the respect of those around you, you need give respect first, and do it in a personal and if possible unexpected way. Next time one of your employees does a good job, let them know it. Go above and beyond verbal recognition. Simply put, to get a lot, you have to give a little.

Principle #2 – Scarcity

It is human nature to desire things that are available in limited quantities and the less there is, the more people want it. It can be applied to the respect and rewards that are directed to employees. If you are going to be rewarding your employees with tangible items, set up a system where the reward is limited and certain goals need to be met to achieve them.

Another application of scarcity is through communication. For instance, when you are assigning a task or responsibility, make it sound unique and exciting and stress what your employees stand to lose from not getting involved.

Principle #3 – Authority

You can command the authority of your employees with two tactics beyond your formal job title. If you are the boss, dress like it. Make sure your outfit is clean, ironed and appropriate for your work environment. If you have the appearance of authority, it is more likely people will respond favorably to your requests.

You should also be knowledgeable about the company and your role within it. Your knowledge will speak for itself. You will slowly gain authority without ever asking for it.

Principle #4 – Consistency

People find comfort in commitment. As a leader, you often are seeking and asking for commitment from constituents, but you need to lead by example first, and give voluntary, active, and public commitments. Show your employees that you are reliable and in turn you can expect the same from them.

Principle #5 – Liking

People are more likely to oblige requests from people they like and know well, and we tend to like those who are similar and those who give compliments, and cooperate well. As a leader, you should strive to get to know your employees. Learn about them and find common bonds.

Principle #6 – Consensus

When we are unsure we look to the actions and behavior of others guide our decision making process.  A leader can use this in two ways. When trying to get a team member to do something, you can refer to the herd mentality, implying that everyone does it the way you suggest, or make the person feel included by approaching them individually to request they join the team.


No doubt we can all see many missed opportunities in the work place where a simple gesture or rewording of a sentence could have improved the outcome of situation. Let those bygones be bygones and move forward with Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, which are timeless soft skills that any leader can use regardless of the size or type of organization. Practice these principles and you will not only become a better leader but you will earn the respect of your colleagues, team members, and superiors. The best part is they will not only respect you, but like you too. What’s not to like about that!

This is a guest post by Brad Zomick from SkilledUp.com – the leading source of reviews, ratings and deals on online courses, with over 50,000 courses from over 200 providers available in every subject. Find online courses at SkilledUp.com to get skills and get ahead, and visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Product Management Perspective: The principles discussed above apply nicely to product management. Look for ways to lead with consistency and consensus, and your products – and the customers that use them – will reap the benefits.

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Book review: The Servant

the-servantThe book The Servant: A Simple Story About The True Essence of Leadership, written by James C. Hunter, brings out timeless principles of leadership and integrity in a story form. The story is about a man named John Daily who has his priorities mixed up. At the insistence of his wife he reluctantly agreed to go on a week-long spiritual retreat where he would have an experience that turns his life around. The story itself is only somewhat engaging, and has several unfinished threads. However, the thoughts and principles taught are valuable and make it worth the (quick) read.

The author talks about the old paradigm of leadership where the employees (‘grunts’) are at the bottom of the pyramid, and as you move up you have supervisors, middle managers, vice presidents and the CEO. He turns that paradigm on its head and shows an upside-down pyramid with employees at the top, on down to the CEO. Through this point of view he shows how true leaders serve the people who work for them, and the front-line employees serve their customers. The role of a leader is not to rule over other people, but to serve them.

Servent Leadership

Servent Leadership

With the paradigm shift in place, the author uses another inverted pyramid to describe the Servant Leadership model. At the bottom is will, then love, service and sacrifice, authority and leadership is at the top. According to this model, the first step toward leadership is will, having intentions + actions, or aligning intentions with actions and choosing the appropriate behavior. With the proper will you chose love, the verb (in this case) that means identifying and meeting the legitimate needs (not wants) of those being lead. The next step in the progression is to serve and sacrifice for others. Through service one builds authority or influence with people, and once that is established, one earns the right to be a leader. The greatest leaders, therefore, are the ones who serve the most.

Leaders create the proper conditions for growth to occur. One important way they do this is through service.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers face an interesting challenge: they are (usually) responsible for the success of their products, yet the people they rely on to get their products successfully out the door do not (usually) report to them. This situation lends itself to servant leadership. This does not mean that product managers should run around doing whatever the Dev/Marketing/Sales/… manager tells them to do. Instead they must build relationships of trust with their teams and find ways to do things for them that will demonstrate their intentions to work together for success.


The leadership role of product management

Most technology companies are comprised of people and teams that discover, define, design, develop and deliver products to the market. Within these companies the role product managers play has become increasingly important to the success of the products and the companies; it has become increasingly strategic.

One aspect of the role of product management that makes it both enjoyable and difficult is the fact that, in most companies, the people on whom product managers depend to successfully release products do not report to them. Product managers have to act as the catalyst to drive unity and direction on the team without having management authority over the people (from other teams) they depend on for their success. This situation requires product managers to be leaders.

The following quotes by great leaders — while not written specifically about product managers — shed more light on the leadership role of product management:

”Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” General Colin Powell

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” – John Maxwell

”All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common; it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people…. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

”A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” John Le Care

“Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers.” – Dee Hock

Not all product managers will be leaders; they do not all need to be leaders. However, to increase their likelihood for success (with both products and careers), product managers will work diligently to become leaders in their organizations. For more information about this topic check out my recent article and blog post.

Join Steve Johnson and me July 11 for our webinar Tuned In Product Teams. Check out our featured article The Tuned-In Product Manager.