Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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2021: What Will Your Legacy Be?

Guest post by Bill Jensen

The next five years are likely to be the most crucial in your entire career.

If I’m not careful in how I pose the question, when I ask leaders about their legacy, I might get canned retirement speech. “I want to leave this business prepared for the future and knowing that I made a difference.”

But as our conversation continues, the import of considering one’s legacy within just the next five years becomes clear. This is an era of transformative disruption.

What keeps many leaders awake is being Uber’d — experiencing massive disruptions in everything they do that seem to come out of nowhere – disruptions that can uproot entire businesses and industries before they’ve finished their morning cup of coffee. Continue reading


Envision the outcome

What attribute most distinguishes leaders from non leaders? According to James Kouzes and Barry Posner it is “being forward looking — envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future.” Their article To Lead, Create a Shared Vision — published in the January 2009 Harvard Business Review — derives its conclusions from extensive research through surveys and interviews. Their survey asked what traits people look for and admire in a leader and what traits they look for in a colleague.

The number one requirement of a leader, honesty, was also the top-ranking attribute of a colleague. But the second-highest requirement of a leaders was that they be forward looking. They need to present a vision for the future that not only embodies their view of the outcome, but also includes reflects the aspirations of their constituents (i.e. the followers). Therefore, leaders must spend time reading networking with other leaders — developing and absorbing ideas as they grow — and also mingling with constituents, taking their feedback and making them a part of the outcome.

My friend Greg Strouse sums it up nicely: “Here’s your lesson. Education is nice. Experience is nice too. As for me I’ll bet on the person with vision, passion and that magic touch every single time.” Vision, passion and the “magic touch” allow leaders to look into the future and provide direction while at the same time including the people who will be most affected by their decisions. (Note: Greg’s quote comes from his post Remembering Bonnie, a moving tribute to his wife who passed away in September ’08.)

The Product Management Perspective: By its nature product management requires a high degree foresight. As the leader of the product it is the product manager’s responsibility to envision the outcome. In the process you include people from other teams in decisions and invite them (by your actions) to share in the results.


You can’t fake leadership

The work fake has various connotations and degrees. In one sense it means not real or untrue. It can be as harmless as an actor who shows contrived emotions or as damaging as a criminal who uses deception to defraud people of their money. Regardless of the degree, the act of faking or being fake results in negative consequences and is the antithesis of leadership.

People become leaders in different ways: some are elected, others are appointed, still others become leaders without ever having the title. Regardless of how you become a leader, you can’t fake leadership. Sure, there are people who do and some even get away with it for a while, but at some point, usually not too far down the road, people clue into the false intentions and the phony front and quit listening to or following the “leader” (who is not really a leader).

Becoming a leader requires a careful combination of confidence and humility. Remaining a leader and growing leadership capabilities require persistence and integrity. An essential characteristic of leadership is trust. Leaders live and work in ways that let them gain the trust of their people. They also trust their people; trust goes two ways. Ultimately, you cannot fake trust, you have to earn it, and you earn it by being genuine and real.