Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Developing Your Team Purpose

Guest post by John Izzo, PhD and Jeff Vanderwielen PhD

Today’s product managers wear many hats and are required to be motivators, counsellors, mentors, and enforcers. It’s difficult to balance competing job priorities and some leaders do a great job of truly engaging with their teams. And many others, despite their best efforts, manage to motivate the top performers but can’t seem to get the whole team rowing in the same direction. We found that to create a common goal, it’s vital to ramp up your purpose as an organization. Here, we will share from our book The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good  how to develop and polish your team purpose statement.

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How coaching creates great leaders

When I think of leaders who have built great companies, the first name that comes to mind is Steve Jobs. He was arguably one of the greatest CEOs of the modern business era. His vision transformed the personal computer, music, movies and mobile device industries.

Did Jobs have coaches along the way? The answer is yes. I’m pleased to introduce you to John Mattone, one of Jobs’ coaches who had the opportunity to work with him on a coaching assignment in 2010.

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Guest Post: Three Leadership Lessons from Four Great Visionaries

By Katheryn Rivas

 We are surrounded by leaders every day of our lives. You see them on television. You read about them in newspapers and history books. You even see them as you walk into your job each day. It takes a lot of hard work and inner courage to be a great leader, and the journey is never ending. Even when you think you’ve succeeded, you still have the rest of your life ahead of you to derail your present success.

One of the greatest gifts leaders like Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and numerous other inspirational figures gave us was their words of wisdom. There may come times when you are placed in leadership roles. In those circumstances, people often crave some wisdom to get them through the process. Below are four inspirational leaders and three important lessons we can all learn from them.

Steve Jobs- Why being fired isn’t the worst thing in the world

Despite pioneering and successfully growing Apple out of his garage, Steve Jobs was fired from the innovative company in the late eighties. What would have seemed like the most embarrassing public ousting of all time turned out to be the best thing ever for Jobs. He moved forward and started NeXT, a computer technology company that later created Pixar and the movie Toy Story. Jobs’ rise to the top earned him back his job at Apple and a place in history as an inspirational leader and legend. Being fired from a job you aren’t satisfied with or aren’t doing well at may initially feel like the worst thing in the world, but try and see it as just another stepping stone. Use this unfortunate opportunity to seek out the job you always wanted, and as Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

See more of Jobs’ wisdom here.

Oprah Winfrey- Do all that you can and then surrender the rest

Oprah seems to have success, fame, and fortune following her at every corner. But when it came time for Oprah to audition for the role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” she was initially not successful. After auditioning multiple times for the film, Winfrey had not heard an answer on whether or not she had won the role of Sofia, and casting agents told her that “real actresses” were also auditioning for the role and that she should not get her hopes up. In Oprah’s mind, there was nothing more she wanted than to be in “The Color Purple.” She believed it was her destiny to have this role and she had worked her tail off to earn it, but the cards did not seem to line up. Finally, when it seemed Oprah was not going to get the role, she decided to surrender her sadness and be satisfied in knowing she had done all that she could. Ironically, moments later Spielberg called Oprah to let her know she had won the part. Leaders are challenged all the time, but there is only so much we can do. Do all that you can, and then surrender the rest to the fates. Trust that your destiny knows what you are meant for more than you do.

See more of her wisdom here.

Woodward and Bernstein- Follow your gut and don’t let intimidation stand in your way

When Woodward and Bernstein first got wind of a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Water Office Complex, they smelled something fishy. The two “Washington Post” journalists were relative nobodies when they set out to follow the trail. Nobody could have predicted that their trail would lead all the way up to Nixon in the Watergate Scandal, most especially Woodward and Bernstein. It took a long time, and the duo made a lot of mistakes along the way, but they never stopped pushing to get their questions answered. When they did get their questions answered, they changed the course of history. These two journalists followed their gut, and that’s something more of us should do in our work lives. Trust your intuition and never stop following the trail. As long as you keep working hard, you’ll find what you’re seeking.

See more of their wisdom here.

It’s never easy taking on a leadership role, but having some words of wisdom from the great leaders of our time makes the task less fearful. Use these three tidbits of wisdom in cultivating your leadership role.

Katheryn Rivas is a regular contributor to Online University. Like the name suggests, the online universities blog focuses on higher education and trends. She welcomes your comments at katherynrivas87[at]gmail[dot]com.


The Product Management Perspective: As Steve Jobs says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. Most people in a given company, and especially those working to create products, look to the product manager for direction and consider him/her the “CEO of the product.” It’s a great opportunity to show vision and leadership.


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Guest Post: Leadership—Why Passion Still Matters

By Melissa Crossman

We associate the term passion too much with magazine ads for perfumes or movie clips about doomed love. According to business leadership gurus Tim Elmore and Glenn Llopis, it needs to be a term we associate more with our careers and work life. At most Monday morning staff meetings, voices rarely stray from a monotone unless a colleague mentions a leisure event he attended over the weekend. Managers either cajole or threaten — whatever method seems more productive this month — to enlist staff support for the upcoming week’s planned projects. Another unproductive meeting ends as employees move grudgingly toward their cubicles to begin their workdays. What passion? Where?

Is Passion Even Part of the Preparation?

Despite our idealistic notion that college is the time for young adults to seek out and study the discipline that inspires them with enough passion to build a lifelong career, other circumstances can intervene. In times of scarcity such as the recent economic recession, students tend to turn pragmatic and pursue majors that might provide them the best opportunities for employment following graduation. Whether they attend classes in a physical classroom or log onto an online school, a significant amount of students are going to seek a degree that will most likely provide them a paycheck after graduation, not a “fill-in” job.

Passions: Interests on Steroids

Passions, writes Tim Elmore, are like interests on steroids. He encourages participants in his leadership classes to identify what he terms a “Passion Profile” inclusive of both issues and actions. The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to help individuals to discover their own “incarnational passions,” i.e., those that can blend the personal, professional, individual and communal. There are many ways to pursue or even discover your passions. These might be discovered via furthering your education, volunteering efforts, great literature or even a religious experience. Whatever they are, when discovered and pursued, these interests can help lead workers to a fulfilling career.

Passion and Leadership

Llopis ties passion to the ability of leadership to successfully institute and implement strategic change. For a leader, following a true passion can unlock leadership in a constructive, responsible way. Elmore further identifies two specific reasons passion is important to leaders or those considering a position in leadership. First, thorough knowledge of a passion is a type of self-awareness that allows you to then focus limited energies on said passions. In addition, this form of self-knowledge typically allows those who possess it to act as mentors and leaders for what Elmore terms “your team.” Part of the mentoring process is that of leaders helping team members to identify their own passions, i.e., working as a “passionator.”

Good leadership is difficult to perform and hard to describe, yet easily noted when you’re lucky enough to work for a strong and capable leader. Too often, Elmore says, passion is confused with intensity. Intensity might have its place in the toolset of a good leader, but it’s no substitute for true passion. As Elmore clarifies: “Intensity is marked mostly by emotion, [while] passion is marked mostly by conviction.” No matter what sort of role you perform in your work life, you can rely on passion to help hone leadership skills.

Melissa Crossman lives in Indianapolis with her two dogs. She writes for The Professional Intern, specializing on education and career guidance topics.


The Product Management Perspective: As product manager you play a key role in the success of your products. You make sure everyone on the team is working effectively and all the parts come together properly. Passion plays a key role in building consensus and motivating team members to do great things. Let your passion show through in everything you do as the product leader.


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A new Leadership Development Carnival

The Lead on Purpose blog is featured in the November Leadership Development Carnival of Dan McCarthy’s Great Leadership blog.

The latest Leadership Carnival brings together links to more than 30 fresh posts on topics such as mentors and role models, leading teams and maximizing your performance. You’ll find posts from great bloggers such as Wally Bock, Steve Roesler, Chris Young and others. The Leadership Development Carnival is a great way to expand your leadership knowledge and get to know the bloggers who are making it happen.


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Leaders are mentors

One of the key tenets of leadership is the need to pass on the knowledge and experience to others. Most great leaders throughout history have made it a priority to grow and develop other leaders who can come in, take the reins and lead more effectively.

A mentor is a trusted counselor or guide, a tutor, a coach. A mentor cares more about helping others than getting credit. A mentor seeks to make the world better through helping individuals and inspiring them to help others. In the context of helping others, a mentor seeks to:

  • Guide: Mentors teach others how to learn, how to find ways to do things themselves. When you ask your mentor questions, he or she does not give you the answers, but guides you to find the answer yourself. They teach you how to be successful by helping you become self-successful.
  • Inspire: Mentors motivate. They have high optimism and a love for life. Their energy is contagious. Mentors lead people to succeed through their own success and by encouraging others to believe they can also succeed. They set a pattern to follow.
  • Build: Mentors develop others. They provide opportunities and direction. They create structure and process to channel the growth and development of those they lead. Their goals are “other” oriented; not wanting the glory or limelight themselves, they foster the growth and success of others.

Make it a priority to find someone for whom you can be a mentor. Your efforts will help that person learn and grow. Giving your time and knowledge to others will help you develop your leadership skills.

Leaders are mentors. Mentors are leaders.

The Product Management Perspective: A key opportunity (if not specific job requirement) of a product manager is to inspire people on their team to be successful. They build products that delight their customers. They do not simply see themselves as the keeper of requirements, but the leaders of teams and causes which tie directly back to their products.