Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How accountability leads to success

Accountability leads to success. Why? When people take responsibility for their actions they make changes that lead them to do things differently, to do new things and/or to stop doing things that held them back. This may sound simplistic, but its true. Continue reading


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How to Become Successful in Business

Guest post by Sarah Brooks

Successful business leaders emerge from a variety of circumstances, each finding a unique path to the top. But the cream of the crop shows some similarities across its members. Certain habits lead to success in business. Whether you work for yourself or an employer, these five tips will help you succeed in business: Continue reading


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How do leaders deal with change?

Change is one of the inevitable aspects of business, and life in general. Some people find it difficult to deal with change, and their attitude towards it limits their growth. Others embrace change and deal with it in positive ways.

Leaders have to deal with change personally and also help their people stay positive. Here are three simple, yet powerful ways leaders deal with change effectively:

Be flexible: Don’t get set in your ways. Know ahead of time that things are going to change, and when they do, embrace and move forward. If you’re rigid and inflexible, changes will still come and they will be painful.

Be accountable: When situations change, take charge. Take responsibility for what is happening and work to help others deal with the changes. Lead out in facing the moment and dealing with it head-on. Others will follow and they will appreciate you for your efforts.

Look to the future: Your attitude towards change will determine how it influences you. If you worry and fret about what is happening, it will have a negative affect. If you look for the positives in the situation, and move forward with confidence, everything that changes in your life will have a positive outcome, and your attitude will help others.

Years ago I had received a promotion to a new position—product manager—that I had been working on for more than a year. For the next nine months I worked eagerly to learn what I needed to do to succeed in the role, and I put those things into practice. My manager gave me high reviews and things were looking up. Then the unexpected happened…the company downsized and I was out of a job.

It was difficult at first, but I immediately set my sights on a young company that was starting to get a lot of attention in the industry. They had an opening for the position I wanted. I did my homework, got advice from mentors, researched the company, and prepared myself in every way I could imagine for the interviews. It took a while to get through the process (I later found out that more than 100 people had applied for the job), but I got the job. It was the perfect job for me at that point in my career. This change opened up new opportunities for me to grow as a leader. I never would have pursued it without the unexpected change.

When changes occur, don’t shy away or act like they didn’t happen. Face them head-on, look to the future, and make the best of the situation. Then look for ways to move forward and help others deal with them in a positive way.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers deal with change in many ways. Changes in the market can be the most difficult to detect and deal with, and yet these are among the most important for product success. Set aside time to do market research to make sure you know what’s going on in the market your product serves. Set aside time for customer visits, learn what’s important to them and make sensible decisions based on what you find.


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Leadership and enthusiasm

Attitude determines direction. Successful people possess a deep passion for the activities in which they engage. In the ancient Greek vernacular enthusiasm meant inspiration or divine influence. In modern English it refers to intense enjoyment, interest, or approval.

wooden-on-leadershipEnthusiasm drives passion and fuels achievement. It comes from within. Expressing enthusiasm is a choice, and those who choose it benefit from the results. The great basketball coach John Wooden said: “Your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.” Not only will it inspire others but it will also inspire you to reach new heights.

The “sales guru” and bestselling author Augustine “Og” Mandino described the importance of enthusiasm this way:

Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.

Whether you are enthusiastic or not is a choice. Find ways to cultivate this behavior in your own life and you will reap the benefits; do not settle for mediocrity.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to find ways to motivate the teams they work with. Leading on purpose is all about finding ways to lead and inspire other people — over whom you have little or no managerial authority — to do things better and faster than they thought possible. Enthusiasm (for your work and your product) is crucial.

Image courtesy of Cultivating Greatness


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Self leadership

Amidst all the talk of leadership and leading others, the importance of self leadership is often forgotten or downplayed. ‘Self leadership’ connotes attitudes and behaviors that lead individuals to a happier, more productive life. During difficult times, when you are stressed by world news, the economy, work or the lack thereof, the human tendency is to grasp for anything that will pull you up. The key to surviving and thriving through difficult times is self leadership. The following actions positively effect progress towards self leadership:

  • Give service: The best way to help yourself is to help others. Whenever you lend a hand to someone else you inevitably help yourslf. This works not only in your neighborhood, but also in cyberspace. Jim Connolly validates this principle in a recent post about three of the biggest names in blogging. He says the key to their success “is all about one word, contribution.” When you willingly give of yourself, without expecting something in return, great things will happen.
  • Be creative: Synonyms such as inspired, resourceful and productive describe the actions of creativity. Even in the worst of times you can always find ways to be creative, and that outlook will help see the world in a different, more positive light. Take action, but before you do pause and envision how your creativity will make a difference, then be creative on purpose.
  • Solve problems: Look for solutions, not excuses. Problems abound, which means opportunities for solutions are abundant. When faced with problems, don’t limit yourself to obvious solutions. Seth Godin illustrates this point beautifully in a recent post where he tells how the telephone destroyed the telegraph. Speaking of the people that developed the telephone he said, “they solved a different problem, in such an overwhelmingly useful way that they eliminated the feature set of the competition.”
  • Think positive thoughts: In all situations, every time, the optimistic approach will benefit you. Things will not always work the way you want, but by viewing them through a ‘positive lens’ you will always end up better off.
  • Be confidently humble: The words ‘confident’ and ‘humble’ are rarely used together. Confidence is often associated with arrogance, and humility with weakness. However, the positive behaviors associated with each, in combination, lead to powerful results. Rather than thinking of confidence as arrogance, think instead about words like self-assured, certain and secure. You know where you’re headed and you know you will get there. Rather than with weakness, associate humility with self-effacing, unassuming behavior. Give others credit. Inspire others through your willingness to build them up.

Pushing forward through tough times can seem anywhere from difficult to impossible. Instead of wringing your hands and spending energy worrying, take steps toward self leadership and you’ll be amazed where you end up.


The Product Management Perspective: To lead people on teams over which you have no authority requires a special kind of leadership. As a product manager, your ability to create great products will, to a large degree, depend on your ability to inspire others and gain their trust. Your ability to do this will be greatly enhanced through actions that inspire self leadership.


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Service providers

In today’s language the term “service provider” is often used generally to describe the company or organization from whom you get your Internet, phone and/or TV service. The emphasis seems to be on ‘provider’ not ‘service.’ It seems, in many cases, the service providers have forgotten the importance of providing service to their customers. They want to collect the money from their customers, but many do not actually provide real service.

Seth Godin wrote a cogent post about the importance of making the customer happy. In response to an experience he had calling a customer service organization, he wrote:

The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.

If you’re not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion. There are no half measures. Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings. Think of all the money you’ll save if you just stop answering altogether. Think of all the money you’ll make if you just make people happy.

It comes down to the leadership through which the attitude is established in an organization. Focus on becoming a service provider and you will make people happy.


The Product Management Perspective: The importance of customer service in product management cannot be overstated. To the extent product managers focus on understanding and serving their customers their products will do likewise.


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Seeing the positive outcome

An important aspect to success is the ability to envision the outcome. People who accomplish great things see themselves winning the game, closing the deal, getting the standing ovation, long before it ever happens. For some this concept seems weird and for many others it seems downright irrational. However, many people have proven it to be true and have given evidence to back their claims.

In the midst of an economic downturn people are looking for hope and evidence that things will turn out right. The tendency is to hunker down and act conservatively until things pick back up. In a recent post, Dr. Paul addresses this topic with a succinct (and famous) quote by Earl Nightingale: “You become what you think about.” Obviously your thinking cannot magically change the economy or make customers start buying more, yet the act of focusing on the intended outcome causes you to look at things differently. You begin to see opportunities in ways you had not seen before. Seeing the positive outcome is especially important for leaders. They must focus on doing the right things for their employees and customers, and foresee their organizations making it through the downturn and rising to new heights on the other side.

A note to those who are looking for employment, struggling to get new business or otherwise anxious about your current (personal) situation: take the time to map out what you want to achieve and then see yourself achieving it. David Meerman Scott wrote a recent post on how the old rules of finding a job do not work in today’s market. He wrote a post two days later with specific examples of how using the New Rules are working to help people land new jobs in a tough economy. I HIGHLY recommend these posts for anyone looking for work. Study what he writes, take action and see yourself succeeding.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers have to churn out products with resources from teams they do not control. Their ability to inspire team members to do their work effectively is key. Look ahead with optimism and work hard to help others catch the vision.