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Leadership and Influence for Product Managers


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Slides Dustin Levy recently used in his discussion w/ mentees of The Product Mentor.

The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Mentors and Mentees from around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Throughout the program, each mentor leads a conversation in an area of their expertise that is live streamed and available to both mentee and the broader product community.

Published in: Business
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Leadership and Influence for Product Managers

  1. 1. Presented by Dustin Levy May 27, 2015 Leadership and Influence for Product Managers
  2. 2. Product Managers are often asked to Lead Without Authority Our Challenge:
  3. 3. • A MANAGER is task-oriented and has the authority to control behavior through compensation • A LEADER is people-oriented and has the ability to guide work efforts, create a feeling in others that they are valuable contributors, and provide the support and freedom needed to succeed • An INFLUENCER has the ability to gain agreement or support for an opinion or perspective without having to exercise authority Working definitions for this session:
  4. 4. • Family • Friends • Cultures • Religion • Teachers • Athletics • Military service Our experiences shape our leadership styles…
  5. 5. …but, leadership styles developed early in our careers may or may not make us effective Product Managers
  6. 6. • Graduate School/Postgraduate Research ▫ Expertise, publications, being the smartest person in the room • Product Developer/R&D ▫ Expertise, task execution, with a dash of collaboration • Product Manager ▫ Bringing products to market, cross-functional execution • Product Management Director ▫ P&L ownership, people leadership & development, best practices My career path, and measures of success along the way:
  7. 7. “Countless books and advisers tell you to start your leadership journey with a clear sense of who you are. But that can be a recipe for staying stuck in the past. Your leadership identity can and should change each time you move on to bigger and better things.” Herminia Ibarra, HBR Jan-Feb 2015 The Authenticity Paradox
  8. 8. • Applied as a researcher, developer, and first-time product manager ▫ Worked well as a researcher, okay as a developer, not at all as a PM • What it looked like: ▫ Lots of answers, weak listening, made sure people knew how smart I was • Where it limited me and my team: ▫ Too little attention paid to others’ ideas…I didn’t have all the answers My First Style: Leading via Expertise
  9. 9. • Applied after taking my first lumps as a product manager ▫ Made strong individual contributions, but weak team leadership • What it looked like: ▫ Worked hard, but not necessarily smart, focused on outworking peers • Where it limited me and my team: ▫ Only some individuals respond to this leadership style My Second Style: Leading via Example
  10. 10. • Applied as a struggling product manager with poor team performance ▫ A combination of leading via expertise and example • What it looked like: ▫ “I’ll show you how to do your job the right way” • Where it limited me and my team: ▫ Poor team accountability, neglection of my other PM responsibilities My Third (& Worst) Style: Leading via Gap-Filling
  11. 11. • People who become Product Managers share some common traits: ▫ Intelligent ▫ Self-motivated ▫ Hard-working ▫ Competitive ▫ Rewarded in the past for superior individual performance • These traits, when mis-applied, make us less tolerant of others’ ideas, work styles, motivators, and behaviors that are incompatible with ours; all to the detriment of team performance Personal traits of Product Managers:
  12. 12. Leadership and influence requires us to be other-centric instead of self-centric Big Idea #1
  13. 13. Regardless of past or current performance, your team members are good people, with certain unique talents, want to do a good job, and will do a good job when they have a conducive work environment Big Idea #2
  14. 14. Followers follow leaders because leaders help followers do and get things they couldn’t without the leader Big Idea #3
  15. 15. • What it looks like: ▫ Leaders serve followers instead of trying to control them ▫ Leaders understand the personal needs of their followers ▫ Leaders help followers accomplish what they couldn’t on their own ▫ Leaders remove obstacles to let their followers’ talents to shine through ▫ Followers earn greater autonomy and creative freedom ▫ Followers take ownership and are held accountable ▫ Followers are rewarded for great performance ▫ Followers make the leader look good ▫ New leaders emerge, allowing the existing leader to move on to bigger things My Fourth Style: Leading via Service
  16. 16. • The Exceptional Leader, Zenger & Folkman, 2009 • Influence without Authority, Cohen & Bradford, 2005 • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Goldsmith & Reiter, 2007 • The Servant, Hunter, 1998 Suggested Reading
  17. 17. • No single leadership style works in all situations • Leading via expertise, example, gap-filling, or other styles is performed best in the context of Servant Leadership • Don’t be afraid to experiment with new styles, particularly when the stakes are low • Trust yourself, trust your people; take some risks, let others take risks Final Thoughts: Developing a Leadership Toolkit