Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Great leaders engage and communicate

Guest post by Annabelle Smyth

Learning how to communicate with your employees is vital to being a great manager. A leader that knows how to communicate and understands an employee’s situation is one that employee’s want to work for. Communication can improve teamwork, unity, productivity, and efficiency.

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Why Sports Builds Leadership

Guest post by Jordan Spindler

Leadership is a personal trait that often proves elusive to many people, however is intimately related to personal success. Leaders are at the forefront of their fields; they are respected and quite often wealthy. Leaders also foster social change, and most of our cultural, social and economic progress is the result of leadership.

It’s no surprise that many people would like to acquire this trait and would like to see their children develop strong leadership skills. While leadership remains easy to define and identify, a consistent summation of characteristics that make an effective leader remains elusive. So, too, does the way to impart leadership to an eager young mind.

There are many institutions that propose to teach leadership in different areas, with varying success rates. There are even people who speculate that leadership is an innate trait, and therefore can’t be learned. However, there seems to be something of a consensus regarding the relationship between sports and leadership, at least as acknowledged by governments and industry.

Not just any sport will do, however. Team participation is often cited as an important aspect in using sports to develop leadership skills. In fact, team participation is often more important than the physical component, as a search through the biographies of the captains of industry will show: few of them were High-School Quarterback. They all were on some team, however.

Sports are highly competitive, and their nature is to push enthusiastic participants to achieve more than their rivals. In fact, the basis of competitive sports is rivalry, and it is in this competitive atmosphere of team sports that pushes people towards “taking one for the team”, and fostering team spirit. It is within the cohesion of a team that a captain will stand out and acquire the position of leader.

This doesn’t mean that people who participate in relatively individual activities such as jogging or weight lifting can’t use their chosen sport to improve their leadership skills. For example, one of the benefits of indoor cycling is that you can communicate with fellow spinners while working out, and help build a team. Organizing teams will help motivate the members to get more out of their routine as well as provide leadership opportunities for the team.

Competition is one of the bases that produces leadership, which is why the University of California hosts Leadership Competitions along with other institutions that foster leadership, such as the Rotary Clubs. Competition is a motivating factor in human psychology, and one of the traits of leadership is the ability to motivate people to challenge themselves and meet goals.

Competitive team sports creates and environment where people have to work together in order to achieve their goals. Team spirit and the ability to work with others is an essential part of being a leader. An often overlooked part of leadership is the ability to work within a team, which also means listening to other people and understanding different points of view. Someone who can’t play for the team cannot hope to lead it.

The teams and competition of sports are an analogy of the teams of coworkers and competing businesses that leaders must face in the world. The skills learned in each are valuable in the other. If you’re looking to build your own leadership skills or those of your children, consider taking on an exciting and challenging sport today.

Jordan Spindler is a freelance writer and avid fitness enthusiast. His health and fitness articles have been published in a number of national news publications, including the Houston Chronicle and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is a graduate of the University of California Riverside, and although his degree is in English, his passions are fitness and self-improvement.


The Product Management Perspective: The teamwork aspect of sports fits nicely with product management because product managers are usually very competitive. Use that competitive drive to not only become a great team player, but also the team leader.


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Face time with the team

The best way to truly build team unity is to develop trust with individuals. The best way to develop trust is to spend time with the people on your team. In today’s technology deluge we get caught up in easy communication. Email has been the standard for years, and even as good as it is it’s impersonal and can often lead to miscommunication. Phone calls seem to happen less these days, and though better than email, it’s still a less-than-ideal method of communication. Video conference is used everywhere now, and has definitely elevated the personal aspect of communication.

All of these forms of communication taken together, as good as they are, cannot replace face time with the team. There’s something magical about being together with people you count on for your success. These occasions are where trust is built.

It’s worth the time and money to meet regularly with your team. It’s not always easy, and there are occasionally extenuating circumstances that preclude it, but whenever possible it’s worth it for the success of your organization. Find the time; make the effort; you’ll be glad you did.


The Product Management Perspective: I spent last week with my development team who I don’t get to see (in person) very often (they live/work two states away). It was a great opportunity to focus on important aspects of our work together. Though we work effectively through video conferencing and chat, nothing can replace the experiences we have when we’re together. Whether you work at the same location with your team or work remotely, buy your team lunch every so often and let them know you appreciate what they do. It’s one of the best “tools” in my bag.