Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Are you a passionate leader?

Successful leaders possess a deep passion for their work and other activities in which they participate. They find ways to engage their people to go faster, work harder and improve their results. They don’t push or drive people, they inspire, they cause people to dig deep and give their best effort.

In describing how leaders demonstrate passion, Erika Andersen gave the following advice in her Forbes.com article Passionate Leaders Aren’t Loud, They’re Deep:

True passion requires honestly committing to something about which you feel deeply, and staying committed through difficult circumstances.

When a leader is passionate, people feel a deep sense of being led in a worthy direction by someone who is committed to something more important than his or her own individual glory.

Passionate people work hard to make things happen. I recently met Nitin Julka, who is passionate about product management. He reached out to see if I would be willing to give him some pointers on how to become a successful product manager. We scheduled a call, and within five minutes I could tell he’s eager to learn and excited for the opportunities he’s pursuing. Nitin shared with me his Passion Circle—things that drive his passion such as integrity, optimism and hard work.

What you do is less important than how you do it. Do something you love and do it with passion. What are you passionate about?

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers play a key role in the success of their products. They make sure everyone on the team is working effectively and see that all the parts come together properly. Passion is key to 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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Five Actions for Sound Business Leadership

Guest post by Lewis Edward

It’s easy to want others to follow you. The hard part is making yourself the kind of individual people would actually want to follow, and not merely feel obligated to do so. Would you follow you?

By following these five easy but key steps, you can make yourself the kind of leader you need to be in no time:

Lead by example

Don’t be a “do as I say” kind of person. Instead, adopt the “do as I say and do” approach. You can’t expect those under you to work hard consistently if you don’t work hard yourself. Sure, they may work hard at first, especially if you’re holding one threat or the other over their heads; but sooner or later, not even fear or financial motivation are going to able to cut it.

At such times, inspiration has been found more often than not, to work best. And nothing inspires more than a leader who doesn’t just “talk the talk” so to speak, but actually “walks the walk” as well.

Be enthusiastic about what you do; be passionate

If you actually love the kind of work you do, this should come easily to you. Nevertheless, even if your work happens to be less than a delight, don’t despair. Not everyone can have their dream job. You can still be passionate about what you do, or at the very least appear to be passionate about what you do, by adopting the right approach to your work.

One good way to build up enthusiasm on the job is to always focus on the brighter aspects of your work (the happy smiles of satisfied customers, for instance). Being an enthusiastic leader is important because it serves as a dependable source of motivation for the other members of your team.

Be confident

Believe it or not, just like dogs can smell fear in humans, so can followers sense hesitation, uncertainty, or panic in a leader. To be a confident leader, you need a healthy dose of courage.

Now being confident or courageous doesn’t mean you have to be the kind of person that doesn’t get scared, anxious, or worried; you only have to play the part and try as much as possible to hide such demoralizing emotions from the members of your team. After all, according to Ambrose Redmoon, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear”. And in this instance, what is more important than fear is making sure the work gets done.

Be organized

More often than not, the efficiency of your team will be nothing more than a reflection of yours. So if you’re disorganized, your team will likely be disorganized; and if you’re organized, so will your team.

Learn to delegate

The true salt of a leader doesn’t lie in being able to get things done; it lies in making others get things done. This is why a person can be such an effective and efficient worker and still end up being a lousy leader. One salient reason why some business leaders fail at being leaders is because they refuse to, or simply don’t know how to delegate.

As a leader, there is no way you can do everything on your own. That is why you need to learn to allot duties to the members of your team effectively. In this regard however, a leader must take great care not to mistake proper and effective delegation for total absolution from responsibility on his/her part.

If you do not have any of these qualities it will be hard to replicate leaders from your life and from history. There is always a big debate as to whether leaders are born or made from their learning and environment. The truth is it is probably a combination of the two interacting. You cannot separate the effect of your environment on your genes. The truth is that it is our words, actions and behaviors that will inspire and motivate other people. By learning to do the right thing, and learning to behave like a leader we can become the kind of person we would follow into any battle.

Lewis Edward is one of the owners of TheOfficeProviders. He is a real estate investor with many interests in other sectors. Lewis researches and contributes various written features for TheOfficeProviders in areas regarding real estate, including office space for rent and flexible office space, and general business and economy matters. Lewis is experienced in the inner workings of both the traditional and flexible workspace industries and has developed close links with various figures in real estate circles, as well other circles.

The Product Management Perspective: Successful product managers know that to lead their teams (and products) effectively they have to be persuasive and optimistic. They need to find ways to lead people without being the boss. The five actions discussed in this post will help you become a better product manager, and hence a better leader in your company.


Success is not a zero-sum game

In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which one person’s gain is exactly balanced by another person’s loss. In games like chess, one person wins and the other loses. The win (+1) added to the loss (-1) equals zero.

Life in the business world at times feels like a zero-sum game. As you move up the ladder of success the number of positions decreases and the pressure to succeed increases. The situation can leave you feeling like the only way you can succeed is if someone else fails. While this sentiment may be common, it is wrong. In fact, most successful people freely admit they achieved their success with the help of others. The following resources substantiate my claim that success is not a zero-sum game:

According to Steve Farber — author of Greater Than Yourself — the only way for knowledge to truly lead to power in a person’s life is for that person to give it away. The reason this principle works is seemingly simple: “Everyone will want to work with you. And because of that you’ll be able to accomplish anything you set out to do.” Invest in relationships with other people and be clear on your intentions to make a difference in the lives of others. Promote their welfare, fortunes, success and capacity for achievement. Give away your knowledge, connections, experience, advice, life lessons and confidence. Hold others accountable for their commitments.

In his book The Speed of Trust, author Stephen MR Covey discusses the value that comes from trusting others. Trust is the very basis of the new global economy, and he shows how trust—and the speed at which it is established with clients, employees and constituents—is the essential ingredient for successful people and organizations.

Chris Warner and Don Schmincke, the authors of the book High Altitude Leadership describe what happens when people do not work together. The act of placing a higher priority on one’s own desires or “needs” than on the desires and needs of other people defines the word ‘selfishness.’ Selfish behavior robs companies of profits, reduces job satisfaction and weakens organizations’ culture. Overcoming selfishness is critical to effective leadership. This is done by crafting a compelling saga — language and actions that inspire passion for a strategic result. The compelling saga drives performance, inspires value-based behavior and provides strategic focus.

Author and blogger Art Petty offers 8 suggestions to improve your team’s problem solving skills. Problem solving takes teamwork, and in the process, everyone involved grows and improves. Art writes: “The best learning opportunities in the workplace occur when individuals or teams come face to face with a vexing problem.  These situations provide outstanding growth opportunities and a great chance to generate and implement innovative and creative solutions.”

What examples have you seen where working together and helping others leads everyone involved to increased success?

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers rely on others to help them succeed. The most successful products and services come from organizations where teams collaborate effectively. Product managers are (or should be) the catalyst for this success.


Lessons on leadership from Twitter

Last month I decided to take a new step in social networking and created a Twitter account. With help from a friend and a timely post about getting started, I jumped in. After reading “tweets” and “tweeting” for more than a month now, I have keyed in to a few interesting connections to leadership:

  • Product is key: In business, products are king. Companies with great products consistently beat their competitors. On Twitter, the product is you; what you write about, what you promote, what you share. The things you write demonstrate clearly who you are and what you believe. If you tweet passionately about about what drives you, others pick up on it and spread your value.
  • Followers are important: Most of my writing focuses on leading. One of the ways to measure leadership is by the number of followers. Twitter makes this transparent by showing the number of people following a given individual. A high number of followers reveals a leader. Since Twitter is new to many and not yet discovered by some, the number of followers can be deceiving. The key indicator is how fast their followership grows.
  • Leaders are followers: On a given person’s Twitter profile you can see three numbers: following, followers and updates. The first is the number of Twitterers that person is following; the second is the number he/she is following, and the third is the number of updates (or posts) the person has written. From my (albeit limited) experience, the people I consider leaders usually have less following them than they are following. However, the numbers are usually fairly close. This speaks volumes to the need every leader has to follow others. There’s something about the act of listening to and believing in things others promote that makes you a better leader.

While Twitter is by no means a perfect model for leadership, much can be learned about principles of human nature when people put their ideas out for the world to see. I still have a lot to learn about Twitter (and leadership for that matter) and will share more ideas as they emerge. Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

The Product Management Perspective: As product managers you know the product is key; the focus of product management is creating great products that people/businesses will want to buy. Remember that you, as the product manager, are also a product. This was first driven home to me in Fast Company article I read more than ten years ago. While you work to create the best products you can, take time out to increase your own product; it will create value for both you and your company.

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Why blog?

A few months ago I wrote a post I wrote about the reason I write my blog. I concluded that the reason (if there’s only one) is because it forces me to learn; to dig into books and magazines, to read other blogs and to find out where the things I value in the world are headed. I read a great post today where Gopal discusses his reasons and recommendations for blogging. He does a nice job of expanding upon the reasons he writes, all of which I can identify with, especially his third reason:

Write about something I am very passionate about – product management – Identifying market problems, solving them and shipping products that solve them is what I enjoy the most at work.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a blog, take a minute and read Gopal’s recommendations for new bloggers; it’s well worth the time.

For those of you who are experienced bloggers, why do you write?

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Passionate product managers

A common characteristic of tuned product managers is the passion they have for their work and the products they manage. Their passion shows through when they interact with the product team or speak to customers; they communicate their enthusiasm by their actions. Ivan at The Productologist wrote a great post about the importance of being passionate about your products. He explains,

Product Managers have to be passionate about their products in order to energize others about it. Passion can come in a variety of flavors, but no matter how you feel about your product(s), you have to be passionate if you expect others to be.


Tradeshow talk

The topic of trade shows (conferences, conventions, etc.) seems to be on a lot of people’s minds lately. They (the trade shows) have become a fundamental part of many industries, especially for industries steeped in technology. However, in many ways they seem to be losing their mindshare if not their value all together. Art Petty asks marketers, are trade shows extinct yet? He lists six problems with using trade shows as a marketing investment. He follows that with a short list of better things to do than attend trade shows. Steve adds to the conversation with his post that compares the cost/effectiveness of trade shows with webinars. The latter is not as personal or fun, but is increasingly accepted as a viable alternative.

I am in the middle of my second conference in two weeks and so naturally the value and efficacy of trade shows has been on my mind. From the attendee’s perspective, I think trade shows are struggling. I’m at the ISPCon show this week, and today I listened to the worst keynote address I’ve ever heard. The speaker, from the investment banking industry, was obviously not tuned in to the audience he was addressing. He pretty much offended everybody by saying things like “you guys probably wouldn’t understand this” and “sorry girls, this market is dominated by men.” When someone asked him a question, he started to answer and then said “are you going to put your cell phone away and listen?” And that was not the worst of it. His slides were unreadable, he obviously had not practiced and he used an arrogant delivery style. I filled two pages of notes on what not to do while giving a presentation. I realize this was only one address and is not representative of the many great speakers who frequent trade shows. However, I think it represents what happens when trade show producers cut corners.

Fortunately I had a great experience listening to and participating in several addresses at the SMP conference last week. I wrote about Larry Weber’s address in a recent post. Phil Myers gave the other morning keynote, an outstanding address about what it takes to get tuned in to your market in such a way that you change the game in your marketplace. Both were excellent addresses and I learned not only about what they were teaching, but how to give an effective presentation. I was also impressed with Jeff Lash’s and Saeed Khan’s addresses at the conference (Saeed did a great job despite having completely lost his voice the day before). It was a great opportunity to learn from and participate with thought leaders who are passionate about their work.

To come full circle: I do not think trade shows will go extinct any time soon. Too many people appreciate and enjoy getting together with other like-minded people who are driven to succeed. Some shows will fade away and others will crop up, but passionate people will continue to gather, share ideas and create value;  trade shows will continue to be an important vehicle for that interaction.

Update: The ISPCon folks redeemed themselves today. The Day 2 keynote was great; it was 180° from the one I heard yesterday. Elliott Noss, CEO of Tucows, presented on how the Internet is changing business. Everything from the title, “Why YOU and Lowfat Lattes are Google’s Worst Nightmare” to his presentation style (open and engaging) to the slides (pictures that tell a story) made the experience great. Elliott’s presentation was a great example of people gathering to share ideas and create value. His presentation certainly created value for me!