Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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One Compelling Question for Innovators

Guest post by David Sturt for Lead on Purpose blog

I recently came across a story in Wired magazine about a radically new technology being developed for heating and cooling. Aside from the exciting product idea to heat and cool a person rather than a place, I was intrigued by this statement about how the idea germinated:

At a point when humans need to take a sober look at our energy use, we’re poised to use a devastating amount of it keeping our homes and offices at the right temperatures in years to come. A team of students at MIT, however, is busy working on a prototype device that could eliminate much of that demand, and they’re doing it by asking one compelling question: “Why not just heat and cool our bodies instead?” (emphasis added).

Asking the right question is one of five key skills that predict great work, as identified from a sample of 1.7 million instances of award-winning work. Continue reading

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Does loving your job make you a better leader?

I recently attended a keynote address by Dr. Craig Manning, sports performance coach and author of The Fearless Mind. He talked about how 10% of our brain is the conscious, and 90% is the subconscious. As we practice and perform, the things we learn in our conscious mind flow into our subconscious and result in our naturally doing what we train our mind to do.

What struck me the most was his emphasis on the importance of loving what you do, and focusing on what you love. That is the key to becoming great at your chosen vocation.

This experience made me think of a blog series I called The LOVE of Leadership. Here the word ‘love’ is used as an acronym that describes the behaviors that, if practiced, bring out the best in the people you lead:

As you strengthen these competencies—so they come out naturally from your subconscious—you will see a noticeable improvement in the success of your people and your organization.

To learn more about the science behind these powerful principles I highly recommend Dr. Manning’s book The Fearless Mind.

The Product Management Perspective: Most product managers I know love their job. This helps them work more effectively with people from other teams. Your love for your job and products will communicate a positive message to the teams you work with and the customers who use your products.


The LOVE of leadership: Observe

As discussed in a previous post, it might make some uncomfortable to use the word ‘love’ in the context of leadership. However, the practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results, and includes the following actions:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

tuned-in2A key to success in any vocation is gaining deep insight into the market(s) you are serving. Product managers and marketers know the importance of understanding their market. In their book Tuned In, authors Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott offer the following advice:

Product managers, executives, and marketers regularly meet with people in the marketplace and observe how those people do business or go about their lives. These observations provide insight into the full scope of the problems and the usage requirements and significant obstacles to adoption of any proposed solution. The most important thing they do is to live in and observe the prospect’s world.” (Emphasis added)

In the context of leadership, you want to gain a deep insight into the people you serve. Observing behaviors and actions leads to understanding. These observations come during meetings, at events, and by spending time one-on-one with the people in your organization. A tight correlation exists between listening and observing. As a leader, the two actions combine to strengthen relationships and build trust among those whom you lead. When you observe others, practice the following actions:

  • Learn specifics: Watch how people act. Determine why they do certain things in a given circumstance. Learn as much as you can about what drives people to the successful behaviors promoted by your organization. The more you learn the better prepared you are to increase success.
  • Show intent: Be honest in your desires to learn about the people you serve. The last thing you want is for anyone to think you have ulterior motives. Fix in your mind the end goal of truly understanding the people and let that behavior show through during your discovery process.
  • Develop trust: Take action that will show others you mean what you say. Encourage them to share their feelings and ideas and show genuine interest in who they are and what they believe in. Show confidence in their ability to do what they say. Be true to your words so they will trust what you say and what you do.

Successfully observing others and understanding what drives them will require effort. Your love and appreciation for them will increase, your organizational effectiveness will increase, and your bottom line will grow.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their customers. One of the best ways to understand what motivates customers is to observe how they use your products. Watch what they do, listen to what they say and use that information to improve your products. Remember this great advice from Greg Strouse: don’t fall in love with your products or technology. Love your customers and what you can do to help them succeed.


The LOVE of leadership

The English word ‘love’ has at least four different meanings: strong affection, warm attachment, attraction based on sexual feelings and a score of zero in tennis. Compared to many other languages, the English word ‘love’ is passive. The Greek word agapé (noun) describes a more unconditional love rooted in behavior toward others without regard to their due; more action-based than the English word. The Greek definition most closely describes the feelings and actions leaders engage in; the other meanings can no doubt be pursued on other blogs.

It might seem odd to speak of love in the context of leadership. However, if you have ever read or listened to any of the works of Steve Farber you will understand the connection. Several years back Steve released an audio book called Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. In this excellent recording Steve delves into the details of what it means to be a leader. He describes extreme leadership as “the dynamic interplay of fear and love, two of the most powerful forces in the human experience.” Extreme leadership is something you choose on purpose, with the intent of accomplishing something beyond what most people are willing to do. As you consider the word love in this context you will come to appreciate its importance to leadership.

What does it mean to love the people you lead? What are the behaviors or actions you should practice to bring out the best in the people you lead? After listening to Steve’s Extreme Leadership and contemplating what I have observed in leaders, I developed an acronym that embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results. These concepts are not new but are hopefully organized in a way that will be easy to remember and use in your daily activities. The acronym LOVE stands for the following actions:

  • L – Listen
  • O – Observe
  • V – Value
  • E – Experience

These attributes promote a healthy environment and motivate people to their best and most productive activities.

Rather than writing an extremely long blog post to address these actions thoroughly, I will deal with each individually in upcoming posts, and will include the links to each post here. Please leave your comments and let me know the attributes you have seen in great leaders.


The LOVE of leadership: Listen

The LOVE of leadership: Observe

The LOVE of leadership: Value

The LOVE of Leadership: Experience

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to love their team and customers. Sure, it sounds weird, but in the context of the way love is described above, it makes perfect sense. You need to spend time with the people in development, sales, operations and other groups that share responsibility for the success of your products. You need to value your customers, work to understand their needs and anticipate their future buying habits (this applies to non-customers as well). The efforts you put forth and the actions you take will send a strong message to others about who you really are as the product manager and how you feel about them.