Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Product Manager as CEO

Many product managers have begun their tenure with an up-and-coming company by hearing the phrase, “We want you to be the CEO of the product.” While many have argued the validity of this statement, it is something that every product manager should aspire to become, and that is what the market wants.

So how does one achieve this admirable and lofty goal? A startup company CTO explained this best: a product manager is someone who will stop at nothing, accept no excuses, take no prisoners, and make the product successful. The PM owns the product and is completely responsible for its success.

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Value comes from work

Have you ever noticed that (in most cases) when you receive something for free you put less value on it than you otherwise would? This is especially true when the ‘gift’ comes from a person or entity with whom you have no relationship. No doubt you are thankful to have something new and have the opportunity to use it for its intended purpose, but after a few days or weeks have passed the value is usually gone. A few examples will illustrate:

  • Children and toys: When parents give a child every toy she wants, she gets bored with them and they end up scattered all around the house. Every time they take her to a store she cries for the new toy. Conversely, a child who has assigned chores that result in the right to buy a new toy will value the toy and wear it out playing.
  • Teenagers and cars: When parents buy their teenager a brand new car for his 16th birthday, he’s no doubt happy to have the car, but too often doesn’t take good care of it and crashes it or burns up the engine (or does something else to ruin it). On the contrary, when a young man works, saves the money and buys his own car, he takes great measures of care for the car.
  • They family business: Too often when it comes time to pass a family business the next generation the recipient is not prepared. When this happens it’s usually because he or she has not carried the responsibility of the business and does not have the work ethic his or her parents had. Too often the business fails because the heirs did not learn the value of hard work. Granted, in many cases the hard-working parents who created a successful business took the time and effort to teach their children to work and the transition goes smoothly, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

If you really want to value something you have to work for it. Ultimately you will not find joy in what you do without working diligently, and you cannot achieve success without making a concerted effort. As Vince Lombardi so eloquently said: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

For me it’s simple: when you invest your time and your own money, talents, resources and effort into creating or improving some thing, you value the end results. It’s simple but true.


The Product Management Perspective: Nothing comes easy in product management. However, when PMs work diligently, and effectively with their teams, they find satisfaction in the resulting success of the products, and ultimately the company.