Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Leadership and endurance

Success is a marathon, not a sprint. The only way to truly prepare for a marathon is to train, to practice, to run. You need to get out on the road. You need to put in the miles. It takes time, it takes effort, and sometimes it hurts a lot. As the marathon runner Juma Ikanga said after winning the New York Marathon: “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” You can want to win more than anyone else in the world; yet if you do not want to put in the work to prepare, it will not matter.

A great example of enduring leadership was Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. From as early as 1765 Adams called for America’s split from England; a decade before the Revolutionary War started. A recent IBD article illustrates the important qualities of strength and courage that helped Adams not only endure but also succeed: “Samuel Adams’ success came from his willingness to work tirelessly for the cause of liberty. Politics was a kind of ministry for him, and that kind of dedication makes a difference.”

Like the pre-Revolutionary times in which Adams lived, succeeding in today’s world requires endurance and perseverance. Success does not come overnight; it comes after months and years of hard work. Only after pushing through the difficulties we face will we achieve true success.


The Product Management Perspective: Product development cycles can seem long and arduous at times. As a product manager you need to exercise patience at the same time you persuade others to work hard and work effectively. There are days when it seems like nothing will ever come together the way it needs to. However, those who persist always achieve success.


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Forward progress

A key axiom for today’s leaders is that forward progress comes through hard work and persistence. This applies not only to your progress as a leader, but also to the progress of the people you lead. The ups and downs of daily interaction can inspire or drain, depending on your attitude and perseverance. To make progress you have to look at each situation and determine what you can do improve to your success given the circumstances. As Tom Peters says so frankly, “Only those who constantly retool themselves stand a chance of staying employed in the years ahead.”

You need to look at your situation and determine whether you are progressing in the direction you want to go. If not, make the changes necessary and start moving in the right direction. The following quote by Frederick Williams provides additional insight: “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks that will help you move forward in the direction you want to go.


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you need to focus on your products’ direction and success; you need to collect the right market input and turn it into great products. At the same time you also need to focus on your career and your personal progress. With the right attitude you can do both at the same time.


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The spirit of determination

US President Abraham Lincoln was an excellent example of determination. Though he lost businesses and fought bankruptcy, he never quit. Though he lost many elections, he never lost sight of his goal of becoming president. Though he was adamantly opposed by many, he stuck to his principles and lead the country through a tremendously difficult time. He was a man of integrity. He never gave up. He persevered. He showed extreme resolve.

I honor Abraham Lincoln on his 200th birthday. The following are a few of my favorite quotes attributed to Honest Abe:

“Things may come to those who wait, but only what’s left behind by those that hustle.”

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

“Perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.”

“Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.”


The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager, your determination to work effectively with other members of your team will make all the difference.