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.

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(Let me say right up front…this post has nothing to do with the operating system; for a nice riff on that, check out Gopal’s post.)

Yesterday I stood on top of a high mountain (about 7,500 ft.) and took the opportunity to look at the beautiful panorama. I could see more or less 30 miles in all directions. I saw valleys, mountains, lakes and rock formations; it was truly a beautiful sight to behold.

It made me stop and think about the difference between what you see when you’re in the valley vs. what you see when you’re on top of the mountain. In the valley you see things close up, you get the details of the things in your immediate surroundings. However, you may not see things that are close by because of the obstacles in the way. From the top of the mountain you see a broad view; the whole picture of everything around you. Nevertheless, you cannot see the details of the things that are going on in the valleys below.

Most often we spend our time with our heads down working in the “valley,” or in the details; this is natural. However, it’s a good idea to occasionally climb to the “top of the mountain” to get the big picture; to take a broader look at what’s going on around us. In other words, take a look at how we’re spending our time and make sure it aligns with the long-term goals we’ve set. Small, timely adjustments will pay dividends in the long run.

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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.