Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Commitment

Over the past few days it’s hit me squarely between the eyes that I have not been contributing enough to the online world. My excuse (and I’ve heard this from many product managers) is that I’ve been heads down on an intense product release and it’s sucking all my time and energy. While that is true, it’s no excuse.

Two things have jolted me back to reality and to a new desire to stop making excuses:

  1. Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This is an excellent book that lays out simple steps to become a person other people trust, especially online. I will write more about the book here soon.
  2. Listening to Tribes by Seth Godin. I downloaded the audio book and started listening on a run (podcasts and audio books keep me running a lot of miles these days; you can follow me on Daily Mile) and was instantly drawn in to his discussion on leading ‘tribes’ of people in areas for which you have passion. More on this later too.

This recent jolt has made me realize I’ve neglected my friends in the online world (no product release is worth that). For those of you who have me on your RSS feeds: Thank you and I apologize sincerely. For those who just happened to stop by, welcome to Lead on Purpose.

I started this blog (in 2007) to promote leadership principles in product management. This is an important discipline that does not get enough attention. I’ve hopefully added at least a drop to the bucket.

My commitment: For the next six months (at a minimum) I will write at least one post a week. I will continue to learn and share and identify blogs, books and people who are doing great things in leadership and product management.

My appeal to you: Keep me honest. Leave comments and let me know how you feel, even (especially) if you disagree. I’m blogging to learn, not to make money. Comments, criticism, advice and opinions are welcome here.

Thank you, and please check back; I will.


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What matters in 2010?

With just a few weeks left in 2009 you have no-doubt spent time thinking about the events of the past year and the growth and changes that have resulted.

What matters in 2010? Seth Godin, marketing guru and thought leader, did a cool project where he brought together more than seventy “big thinkers” to write the ebook What Matters Now. His purpose: “Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around.” Here are a few of the thought-provoking ideas:

“If you make a difference, people will gravitate to you. They want to engage, to interact and to get you more involved.” -Seth Godin

“Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future. It comes down to pointing the way and saying, ‘C’mon. We can do this!'” –Michael Hyatt

“Here’s the final measure of your success as a speaker: did you change something? Are attendees leaving with a new idea, some new inspiration, perhaps a renewed commitment to their work or to the world?” –Mark Hurst

“The road to sustainability goes through a clear-eyed look at unsustainability.” –Alan M. Webber

“After a decade of truly spectacular underachievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.” –Daniel H. Pink

“The future belongs to people who can spread ideas.” –Guy Kawasaki (read Guy’s ‘ten things to remember’)

“You can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.” –David Meerman Scott

“You’re probably trying to change things at home or at work. Stop agonizing about what’s not working. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What’s working well, right now, and how can I do more of it?'” –Chip Heath & Dan Heath

“You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and what scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.” –Derek Sivers

“Winning businesses have a common trait, an obvious and divisive point of view. Losing businesses also have a common trait, a boring personality alienating no one and thus, sparking passion from no one.” –John Moore

“My eyes have been opened to the value of regularly closing them.” –Arianna Huffington (on the value of sleep)

“The secret learned by technology providers is to spend less time providing services for citizens, and to spend more time providing services to developers…This is the right way to frame the question of ‘Government 2.0.’ How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to provide better services to each other?” –Tim O’Reilly

“Declare war on passivity. Hush the inner voice that insists you’re over the hill, past your prime, unworthy of attaining those dreams. Disbelief is now the enemy, as is the notion of settling. Get hungry — hyena hungry. Get fired up. Find your backbone, and your wings.” –J.C. Hutchins

Seth and his coauthors are trying to get five million downloads of the ebook. Help them out; you will be the beneficiary. Read Seth’s post about the ebook here.


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Leaders’ focus

Successful people are driven to increase their performance and expand their abilities. They understand the need to work hard in areas for which they have great passion.

Regardless of how many things you want to accomplish, you must focus on the most important and let other things — which in the right context may be very good things — go by the wayside. Tom Peters sheds an interesting perspective on focus with the following quote:

Leaders focus on the soft stuff — people, values, character, commitment, a cause. All of that was supposed to be too (indefinable) to count in business. Yet it’s the stuff that real leaders take care of first. That’s why leadership is an art, not a science.

What do you feel are the most important things you should focus on? Where is your time as a leader best spent? Please leave a comment and let’s have a conversation on how leaders can best focus their time and attention.


The Product Management Perspective: For product managers, ‘focus’ can seem fleeting at times. More than just about any role at any company, product management requires interaction with and touches into every other department in the company. Focusing on deliverables can seem futile. However, to the extent you focus on the ‘soft stuff’ suggested by Mr. Peters, you will find your ability to complete your work will improve and will hasten. Working effectively with others leads them to trust you and to work harder and more effectively for your cause.


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Three timely words

December is a great time of year. Most people go out of their way to be a little kinder and a bit more open to what others are thinking. Regardless of religious beliefs most people seem more open to talking to their neighbors and cutting people slack for things they would not consider at other times during the year. If only it could be this way all year long….

There are many things that contribute to the feelings that abound during the holiday season; however, writing about all of them would be futile. Given the focus of the Lead on Purpose blog, the following three words seem timely and fitting:

  • Trust: The word trust has bi-direction meaning and only works when flowing both ways: you have to depend on other people to do what they say they will do; and you have to work, act and believe so that others will confide in and depend on you. People who live and behave in such a way that others can confide in them understand the importance of trust. Take inventory of the people you trust and the people you feel trust you. Do everything in your power to make word ‘trust’ part of your persona.
  • Integrity: The word integrity has deep meaning and is often intermingled with words like honesty and truthfulness. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Every human is born with a conscience and therefore the ability to know right from wrong. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequences, is the hallmark of integrity.
  • Positivity: The word positivity suggests the act of being positive; engaging in positive activity. It’s a word that implies action and effort put forth to improve your circumstances. Positivity does not mean arrogance or hubris, but a quiet, inner self-confidence that — regardless of the circumstances — inspires people to keep moving forward. People who are optimistic about the future and take a positive attitude whenever possible find success in ways other people will never know. It’s not magic, but a law of nature: optimism leads to success.

Take some time to ponder these three timely words and without a doubt you will find applicability in your own life.

I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2009! Take time to enjoy the Holiday season and rejuvenate for the year ahead.