Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How making decisions leads to freedom

Making decisions is never easy. Deciding on one thing over another ranks high among the most difficult things we have to do. The tendency is to postpone decisions as long as we can and put of the pain.

At its root the word of decision means to cut off. When you make a decision you go with one thing and leave all the rest behind. That’s a big reason why making decisions is tough.

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How to create successful Change Leadership

Guest post by Braden Kelley

Change efforts are an expedition, a sometimes perilous journey that must be collaborative. And in our ‘always-on’ society, where the pace of change has accelerated to a point where we as humans can barely cope, our old metaphors of burning platforms and melting icebergs are becoming irrelevant. Change is becoming a constant.

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Preparing to win

One of the most well known, yet least practiced principles of success is the need to prepare. Regardless of the pursuit, if you want to succeed and feel the thrill that comes from winning (however you define ‘winning’), you need to prepare ahead of time. 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.

When you consider successful leaders whom you admire, and think about what they did to achieve greatness, it may seem like things come easily to them. Over time, no doubt things do come more easily. However, most if not all great leaders have learned this truth spoken eloquently by Vince Lombardi: “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” So the next time you are contemplating why things seem to come easy for others, just remember they most likely spent a lot of time somewhere along the way preparing for what they are accomplishing today.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers face an interesting challenge: they are responsible for the success of their products, yet the people they rely on to get their products successfully out the door do not (usually) report to them. This situation lends itself to planning and preparation. Take the time upfront to prepare, and do the work necessary to make your products successful.


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When the game is on the line

I just finished watching the end of an NBA playoff game. The home team was ahead but the losing ground. I watched the leader of the team (a point guard) take over, make the plays and win the game. He made a few mistakes (missed two free throws) but ultimately did what he needed to lead his team to the win.

Product managers share a few things in common with leaders on sports teams. They have the responsibility for the success of the product much like the franchise player has responsibility to win games. Product managers speak on behalf of the product at trade shows, in press interviews and company meeting. The star of the sports team is usually the person interviewed after the game. (Have you noticed the press only interview the star player from the winning team?) Product managers usually don’t have authority over the people on the team they rely on to succeed. Their success hinges on their ability to gain the trust of the team. Great athletes who lead their teams to success find ways to bring out the best in other players. They (usually) do not have much say in who’s on the team but they always find ways to succeed with the talent on the team.

When the game is on the line it’s the leader who steps up. As a product manager you may not have thousands of fans screaming for you, but as the leader of the team you have the opportunity to make the decisions (‘plays’) that will lead your team to success.

What have you done (or seen others do) to lead your team to succeed?