Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Leadership and vision

The word vision has several meanings and is used in many different contexts. Even within the context of leadership you will find varying meanings; things like goals, objectives, mission statements and motivation to name a few. While they are all important and have meaning in their particular contexts, the foresight of leaders might be among the most important combination of leadership and vision.

Steve Farber released an audio CD set — called Extreme Leadership — that is packed with great information about taking leadership to a higher level. Referring to leadership and vision he states: “the role of the leader is to make the vision meaningful.” Companies can have a ‘vision’ or a vision statement, but if it’s not meaningful to the people it will fall flat. To truly provide a vision for the company (or organization), the leaders need to understand, communicate and instill a sense of what’s important: to the company, to the customers, to the employees, to the company leadership. Steve says: “Real leaders take us to places we’ve never been, turn nothing into something, transform good into great, help us grow as human beings and change the pieces of the world that they touch for the better.” It has to be real and true; flattery or insincerity will not fly.

The Product Management Perspective: Leaders make decisions regularly. Successful product managers understand their markets and provide the foresight and direction for their products. They accept the responsibility to make tough decisions and communicate them effectively. They make choices and stand behind them. Ultimately they create a vision that leads their teams and their products to succeed.


The essence of leadership

Here’s a fitting leadership quote for uncertain times:

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

– John Kenneth Galbraith

The Product Management Perspective: Look for opportunities to ease the concerns and anxiety of the people you work with. You may not be their boss, but because you are the product manager, people on other teams look to you for not only direction, but also assurance that things will be okay. They need to know the company will get through these difficult times and their product(s) will succeed. You can give them that confidence; take the initiative.


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.