Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Leadership is a choice

On his blog The Practice of Leadership, George Ambler wrote that leadership is about blazing new trails. What caught my attention, and very quickly, was the close-up of the cow at the beginning. The premise of the post is that people, like cows, tend to follow others on the same winding paths from one point to another. Rarely do they stop and ask why they are going where they’re going. It becomes easier to stop thinking and just do what someone tells them to do. Seldom to they pick up their heads, look around and try to determine what they could change to improve their situation. Instead, like the cows, they follow the path until it gets more trodden and eventually feels like the only possible way to get from here to there.

Leaders are trail blazers; they are not afraid to go places or do things that haven’t been done. They stand fearless in the face of obstacles and find ways to get beyond them. George says: ” if you’re following the herd through the cow paths of life…you’re not leading!” Read the poem and quotes and George’s commentary to get the full picture.

The Product Management Perspective: Having been raised on a cattle ranch, I have followed many a cow trail in my days. It’s amazing how they wind along not going in the best direction to get them to their destination. At times product teams meander like cows, following the habits of their predecessors, not really knowing why. Such behavior never leads to successful products. While such a problem cannot always be solved by the product manager, he or she is in the best position to take the lead, make the tough decisions and get the team headed in the right direction. Leadership is a choice.

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Success is a marathon

This morning while reading IBD, a favorite source of information, I reread the 10 Secrets To Success (they print the ten traits and highlight one each day). The fifth secret highlights the need to be persistent and work hard; “success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up” it states.

Persistence is one of the key characteristics of great leaders. Gaining it requires determination; a mindset that no matter what you will stick to your principles and goals. Having run three marathons I have found that the key is preparation; it’s what you do leading up to the race that determines how well it goes. It’s the consistent and persistent training that determines how well you run a marathon. Where running marathons is concerned, however, real success comes not from preparing and running ‘a’ marathon, but from continued training, learning and determination. It’s the continuation of marathons that becomes the marathon.

Achieving success requires a continuation of effort. We all experience ‘marathons’ along the way to success where we exert increased effort to finish a big project; we do not pat ourselves on the back because we have arrived. We may (and should) take time to celebrate after achieving successes on projects, but the next day we get up and go back to ‘training’ for the next project big project, just like we would train for the next race. It’s the continuation of successes that becomes the success.

Success is the journey, not the destination.