For whatever random reason this morning on my way into work, I was struck with the thought about how many of the leaders I admire are historical figures (Lincoln, Aristotle, Nelson Mandela, etc).  In fact, I struggled to come up with an example who is still living today … not that there aren’t any, but none have so significantly impacted my thinking as to pop immediately to mind.  And then I read this article by Jack & Suzy Welch titled 10 Leadership Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way.

The 10 points are outlined below, as Product Management leaders we should strive to understand each … today I picked three to expand upon.

  • Your company’s values and your personal values must be compatible. [PH] – I attended a leadership summit a while back where one of the speakers shared stories about what happens when our minds are challenged. The premise is that people act in ways where they expect consistency between what they know to be true relative to the environment around them, and their own behaviors/beliefs. When conflicts between the two arise, the resulting effect is known as cognitive dissonance … or a feeling of discomfort between the two conflicting points of view.

    Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations.  And when conflict arises, as they often do, it is imperative to get to the root of the conflict.  Is it merely a difference of opinion that can be worked through, or is it a fundamental disconnect between your personal values and the company’s?  The former can be overcome in most situations, but the latter can lead to a miserable work experience.

  • Continuous learning is critical for success — make it a priority. [PH] – Be willing to unlearn (or even relearn) your environment. Skills, knowledge, relationships, trust … they all decay over time unless they are regenerated. Learning to be a leader is a lifelong event … so never cease to be curious, think outside of the box, or ask the provocative questions. And always strive to learn new things!  Here are a few ideas:

1. Read – find something that is intellectually challenging to read. A book, a blog post, some recent market data or competitive research … anything that forces you to ask the question “why”?
2. Listen – similarly, find some interesting podcasts that will do the same.  TED is a good starting point.
3. Q&A – find a business leader, customer, or industry influencer that you can take out to lunch and ask questions.
4. Think – the definition of the word muse is ‘to think about something carefully or thoroughly’ (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). Carve out some quiet time to process what you have read, heard or seen.

  • Creating an environment of candor and trust is a must. [PH] – this one can be difficult, but what as always helped me is a little quotation I picked up a long time ago:

You will never lead people until you know them …
You won’t know them until they reveal themselves to you …
They won’t reveal themselves until they trust you …
They won’t trust you until they know you …
They won’t know you unless you are open with them …
You can’t be open with them unless you are open with yourself!

  • Differentiation breeds meritocracy. Sameness breeds mediocrity
  • In a performance culture, actions have to have consequences — positive or negative.
  • Attracting, developing and retaining world-class talent is your never-ending job.
  • You must distinguish between coachable development needs in your people and fatal flaws.
  • Simple, consistent, focused communications travel faster and are understood better by the organization.
  • There is nothing more developmental and illuminating than dealing with adversity.
  • Over time, you have to develop a real generosity gene — and love to see each person on your team earn raises, get promotions and grow personally.
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