A Product Leader’s Reading List

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I saw a post on LinkedIn about a new Product Leadership book coming out this summer, and it also referenced an article from the Mind the Product site about six essential books to read for Product Managers.  And that got me to thinking … what books would I recommend?  Not just about Product Management, but about Leadership in general?

Many have shaped my thinking over the years, but the top 5 most recent ones that come to mind.  Enjoy.

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Impacting Your Personal ROI

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I am in the middle of a book that was recommended to me, so a lot of time and focus in the mornings has been around absorbing the information it contains … and it will certainly feed at least one post in the coming week or two.  But in the meantime, I ROIstumbled across this article the other day via LinkedIn … and, wow!

“Setting daily intentions is a great way to create time and make money”

This quote came from the article, and sometimes you get the boost, reminder, and/or shot of encouragement you need by being intentional!

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Is Your Product Structurally Sound?

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This morning on the way into work, I listened to a webinar titled The Future of Product Management.  The host was PG Consulting, and the reason I came to know about the webinar was an email I received from one of their partners who had read one of my posts.  Being a student of both Product Management and Leadership, I was of course intrigued by the context of the email:

The role of the Product Manager has evolved and training programs must address this evolution … what CEOs and Investors care about is growth.

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Product Leader … Start Acting Like One

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I have to admit, I took the bait.  When I first saw the title for this article … Product Managers – You Are Not the CEO of Anything … I admittedly got a bit perturbed.  As a champion for the Product Management role, I have often used this analogy myself (see So … What Do You Do For A Living? as one example). Obviously, arguing to the contrary Float, fishing line and hook underwater verticalmeans you likely  don’t understand the full scope of the responsibilities!

But then again, my reaction is likely exactly what the author intended.  And by opening the article to read it further, I was gone … hook, line and sinker!  And boy am I glad I pursued it.  And to use the third cliche in just this opening section, don’t ever judge a book by it’s cover.

After digging in for myself, this article captures many of the thoughts I have around Product Management specifically … and leadership in general, and can be summarized by a quote I’ve previously shared …

“It’s not the title, or the perceived authority that comes with the role, that defines leadership.  You are a leader when you start acting like one.”

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Richard Branson on Leadership

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Whether or not you like him , there is no denying Richard Branson’s success as an entrepreneur, investor, business magnate, and philanthropist.  As a leader, he is a force to be reckoned with and somebody worth paying attention to.  Today’s post is a summary of 23 tips for success extracted from two books written he has written: “Like A Virgin” and “The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership”.

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Cool as a Cucumber

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A friend of mine shared an article the other day from Forbes titled Are You Sabotaging Your Career By Being Perceived As A Doer And Not A Leader?  While I have reservations about a one or two points, much of the article is a good read. And for me it helps expose certain truths about being a leader that resonated deeply with me.  While I agree with my friend’s sentiment being a leader also means being a doer at times, it requires more of us. This quote from the middle of the article perhaps summarizes it best … leaders are not afraid to do … but they are most effective when they calmly influence and motivate others towards the broader vision!

Often the missing ingredient is “Executive Presence.” Those with executive presence exude confidence; they are influential, proactive and respond calmly, but firmly in challenging situations. In other words, they are “cool as a cucumber” under stress. They are considered leaders as they focus on the big picture and motivate others toward the overall success of the company. They are not afraid to step outside of their offices, roll up their sleeves and pitch in when needed.

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S-curves, Innovation & Cash Cows

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Despite the depressingly cyclical nature of products being common knowledge and in plain sight, it’s shocking how many companies refuse to see it and leave themselves ripe for disruption …The only path then, to build a lasting tech company, lies in successfully making the jump from one S-curve to another … the middle of the innovation curve lures companies into thinking that their mission is to protect their existing audience and market share — the most fatal mistake of all.

Stumbled across Why you should kill your cash cow the other day, and it has some insightful reminders all product management leaders should take to heart.

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Where Does Leadership Begin and End?

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Where does leadership begin and end? Is it intrinsically tied to walking into and out of our work doors every day (either literally or virtually)?  Or does it extend beyond the work aspects of our lives into the core being of who we are?  Many years ago I had the privilege of participating in a leadera9d9c7c2ee40aa511c1d7550b8a21014ship training curriculum that guided me to the conclusion for me personally … it is the latter.  For example, my role as a leader definitely did not stop walking out of the work door after I became a parent!

Honestly, it shouldn’t shock any of us the same leadership characteristics which help us in our roles as Product Management Leaders transfer quite nicely to our roles in family (spouse, father, etc) or in our community (PTA, Homeowners, volunteering, etc).

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Doing Things Right? Or Doing the Right Things?

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Problem solving.  Chances are if I were to query Product Management leaders, a majority would intimate they were good at it. After all, it is one of the fundamental premises of the role, isn’t it?  There generally is no shortage of challenges, frequently on a daily basis, were input is needed, decisions are necessary, and direction is given.

And yet as this HBR article Are You Solving the Right Problems? points out 85% of C-level executives feel their organizations are bad at it.  How could the problem of problem solving be a problem in and of itself?

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My Take on Good/Bad Product Manager

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Several weeks ago during one of our planning sessions, my boss referred to the Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager post by Ben Horowitz.  While it has taken me awhile to get around to reading it, I am sure glad I did.  Love, love, love the context of the article … and disagree with thproduct-managemente opening statement about possibly not being relevant today and/or outdated.

The underlying premise and ideas behind what is shared are, in my opinion, timeless. If you are interested in being a successful leader in product management, this is where you need to start!

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