Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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Do you run your organization by ideas or hierarchy?

One of the keys to a successful company is teamwork. When people to work effectivley together great things happen. Though it’s not recognized a key discipline in many organizations, companies that make it a top priority always come out ahead. Check out this infographic for ideas on how to run your organization more effectively: Continue reading


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How do you win the war for talent?

Guest post by Sarah Sladek

About 40 years ago, shortly after the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) were born, demographers and industry leaders realized that someday this generation of 78 million Americans would retire and the nation would experience a shortage of experienced and knowledgeable talent.

Alas, the time has come. Continue reading


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How to Encourage Team Members to Lead

Guest post by Lindsay Traiman

Leadership plays a vital role in every company. To have a successful business, it is important that every team member is prepared to step up and lead when necessary. Forbes.com defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” By encouraging others to lead, you can more easily achieve company goals and create a nurturing, supportive work environment. Use the following strategies to encourage your team members to lead.

Educate your staff — Not everyone has innate leadership skills, but these skills can be developed. Offer guidance and leadership training to give your staff the confidence and tools they need to lead and inspire others.

Encourage shared leadership roles — Leadership does not come naturally to everyone, which can make it a difficult and scary experience for some. Ease your staff into leadership positions by first allowing them to share the role with yourself or other team members. Allowing people to co-lead projects reduces anxiety and creates a more positive leadership experience by giving team members someone to lean on for assistance.

Define the goal — Unclear goals can create huge obstacles for those attempting to lead a project. Be sure that you clearly define the task, objectives and goals when assigning a project to assist your team members in their leadership efforts.

Listen – Listening is a very important part of effective communication. Always listen to what your staff has to say. By listening, you can gain more insight into the things that motivate individual team members while also learning what goals they have for themselves.

Lead by example – As a leader, your team members look to you as a role model. There is no easier way to encourage others to lead than by leading them effectively. According to a Dale Carnegie study, 62 percent of engaged employees said their managers set a good example. By practicing what you preach in all aspects of your business, your staff will grow to trust you. Employees who trust that their managers are taking their leadership role seriously are more likely to go the extra mile to support the organization’s goals.

Value your staff – Always let your staff members know how important they are to the company. When you see your staff actually taking initiative and utilizing their leadership skills, be sure to recognize them and acknowledge their efforts. Your employees must be reassured that their hard work and leadership is vital to the company’s success.  A study by Bersin and Associates states that companies that provide ample employee recognition have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rates than companies that don’t. A little appreciation truly goes a long way.

While it may not be easy to develop leadership skills in others, it is essential to the success of your business. Encourage everyone on your team to lead in order to help your company succeed.

Lindsay Traiman writes on behalf of Dale Carnegie Training, a company founded on the principles of the famous speaker and author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Today, the company offers leadership training and helps businesses and individuals achieve their goals. Visit Dale Carnegie Training online to learn more about leadership training.


The Product Management Perspective: Many of the strategies described here are key to successful product management. Product managers need to educate others (especially sales) about their products. They need to listen to the market and learn what makes potential buyers want to buy their products. They need to communicate effectively, both inside and outside the company. Perhaps most important, product managers need to value their coworkers and build trust with their organization.


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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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Five must-read blogs

Today’s post focuses on five blogs that have been great resources for me. These blogs and their authors have not only shaped my thinking but also inspired me to dig deeper and work harder. These are great blogs and I highly recommend you click through and spend some time learning from their authors.

Leadership: One of my favorite leadership blogs is Art Petty’s Management Excellence blog. Art writes about all things leadership, and he does a great job of explaining key points in a practical way.

Purpose: One of the most positive people I know is Dr. Paul Jenkins (“Dr. Paul”). His Parental Power courses are second to none, and his Live on Purpose podcast is a source of constant inspiration to help you evaluate and improve your life.

Product Management: If you want to learn about product management and understand it from a leader’s perspective, you need to read Jim Holland’s PM Tribe blog. Jim does a great job explaining principles in a way that’s easy to understand and apply to your situation.  Full disclosure: I worked for Jim in the past and consider him a mentor for life.

Product Marketing: April Dunford specializes in introducing new technology to the market. Her Rocket Watcher blog covers key aspects of taking products to market, both in startups and in large companies. Here wit and humor make it fun and a must-read for anyone interested in marketing.

New (to me): One of the newer blogs I’ve come across recently is We Move Together by Michael Hurley. The tagline is Thoughts and Observations on Leadership & Teamwork. From what I’ve read so far I’m impressed with Michael’s ability to tell stories in a way that inspires you to improve.

These are just five of many that have made a big impact on my life. Please leave a comment and share the blogs you like and the authors who have inspired you.


The Product Management Perspective: There are many great resources for learning about product management and improving your skills. The key is spending some time each day learning and networking with other PMs, marketers and dev gurus.


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Leadership lessons from the mountain

I had the opportunity recently to go up to Sundance, a local ski resort, to go mountain biking with my team. This is the type of mountain biking where you ride up a ski lift and bike down one of many trails to the bottom, load up and do it again. The mountains are absolutely beautiful this time of year and the weather could not have been better.

The great thing about activities like mountain biking is they give you a chance to get away and help you put life into perspective. Many of the things we do for recreation provide apt lessons for other things we do in life. During my experience on the mountain I thought of a few leadership analogies:

Don’t ride alone: I was a slow getting ready and ended up taking my first ride down the mountain alone. The ride up seemed long (and boring) and I wasn’t sure which trail would be the best to go down (my buddies, who know the area much better than I, were far ahead). Success comes when you work together with your team members. Those who try to do things alone and get all the credit end up doing lower quality work. Effective leaders know their team members and guide them to work effectively together.

Learn from the falls: During my Sundance excursion I had two spectacular falls. The first one I saw coming, but still ended up on the ground with scraped hands and knees. The second fall caught me completely off guard. My front wheel hit a rock and I flew over the handlebars face down on the ground. Both times I got up, shook off the dust and kept going. I realized the mistakes I’d made (each different) and was careful not to do the same thing again. All leaders make mistakes. Successful leaders get back up and move forward. They don’t feel sorry for themselves and they don’t make the same mistake again.

Enjoy the ride: When you’re biking down a mountain it can get intense with all the turns and rocks and potential hazards. It’s easy to tense up and focus too much on what could go wrong, and miss the beauty of entire experience. After my first trip down the mountain I realized I needed to relax. I met up with my friends and we rode together. It made the day much better. Sometimes in work situations we get far too caught up in the day-to-day grind and end up missing the “beauty” around us. Leaders find ways to get their teams excited about their work. They know that committed individuals work more effectively and are much happier. Leaders find ways to make work more fulfilling for their teams.


The Product Management Perspective: One of the biggest fears of many product managers I know is that their product will not be successful. Too often they react by closing off (i.e. keeping it inside) and not sharing their concerns with others. This behavior never works in the end. Bad ideas and bad products will be exposed. My advice is to be open with your team, acknowledge potential problems early, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward. Product management can be a thrilling job…enjoy the ride!


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Trust and Job Satisfaction

One of the most important keys to leading a team is creating an environment of trust. Merriam-Webster defines trust as an “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” To work successfully as a team, the leader must create a culture where people can rely on the strength and abilities of those they work with and believe in their leader’s direction and vision.

Why is trust important to job satisfaction? People prosper when they know their efforts are appreciated and their work is meaningful. They step up to greater challenges when they know someone has their back. They will go beyond what they thought they could do and have greater results when they know their work will be appreciated and rewarded. Building trust is the key to building a great team.

In their book The Leadership Challenge, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner highlight the importance of trust in developing job satisfaction: “Trust is the most significant predictor of an individual’s satisfaction with their organization.” Building a culture of trust and collaboration provides incentive for growth, and fulfillment is a natural by-product. Kouzes and Posner give three actions you can take to foster trust and create satisfaction among your team members:

  1. Show trust to build trust: As the leader, be the first one to trust others. Disclose information about who you are and what you believe. Admit mistakes. Listen to others. Acknowledge the contributions of others. Create an environment where people will take risks and reward them for their efforts.
  2. Say ‘we,’ ask questions, listen and take advice: People accomplish great things when they collaborate with others.  Talk in terms of ‘our’: our vision, our values, our goals, our plans, our actions, our achievements. Make sure people see themselves as part of a larger vision.
  3. Get people interacting: Get people interacting with you and with each other. Have informal one-on-one meetings regularly. Hold regular stand-up meetings each morning with your team. Ask questions that encourage people to talk about who they are and what they believe. Hold celebrations in public places and openly reward those who go above and beyond.

As a leader, make creating a culture of trust your highest priority. Go out of your way to connect with people you lead and they will go out of their way to do great things for you. Everyone involved will experience greater job satisfaction as a result.


The Product Management Perspective: Developing trust is a key factor of product leadership. Successful product managers know that trust is bi-directional: they work hard to make sure co-workers from other teams trust their direction and leadership. They also trust that team members will do what they have committed to do. Collaboration is the master skill that allows teams to function effectively. Trust promotes success, and successful people are happy and have high job satisfaction.