I still hear it, as the reason for a product manager’s failure: “I have all the responsibility but no authority”. If this is your reason for a late product, a product not hitting its revenue targets, a product with lots of unsatisfied customers, then pack it in now and find a new career. Great leaders don’t need to exercise authority to motivate their teams.
The new head of product development at GM, Mary Barra, said it best: “The day they say, ‘I’m doing it because Mary told me to do it,’ is the day I lose.”*
Yes, it is true that senior executives use authority. But the best leaders – at any level – understand two important principles:
- when you show that you believe in the product’s success and their success, others will follow because they want to be successful.
- when you help others understand why something is important – how it aligns with strategy and their own interests – they will feel empowered and do what needs to be done. Without you or anyone else telling them to do it.
* As quoted in “Big Wheel at GM”, Fortune Magazine Dec. 24, 2012, Alex Taylor III