Leadership is a lot about building and facilitating conversations—for the real and actionable work that takes the product and organization vision forward. Depending on the individual, leadership is also about fostering work adjacent discussions, often the difficult ones that are easy to avoid but are important nonetheless.
Product leaders are excited about cross-functional collaboration, a shared understanding of the organization’s goals, and why it is important to build relationships with other teams. Leadership is a lot about internal dialogues for what makes us take small decisions. It is so much about figuring out.
Consider an example where two teams reach a point of frustration because they both worked hard but their own KPIs or metrics do not fully align for the org goals. The right leadership can eliminate the arguments and the fault-finding tone in the communication; rather they can discuss and document the lessons learnt for a common reference—it strengthens their mutual relationship.
Guess the biggest takeaway for the teams if the leaders follow this practice?
Building the confidence.
Leadership talks generally revolve around establishing standards for the organization values, open communication, feedback flow, transparency, and the alignment of career path with org success. So often they have a choice to take certain decisions. For example:
- Do I need to call them 1:1 now, or in next week?
- Should I propose a meeting with the newly hired product marketing manager (PMM), or let’s see if there is an onboarding call by them?
- Should I ask them to co-evaluate the new DS proposals, or I should start building a proposal and invite them for comments?
There may not be a defined template for how you decide in such situations.
But as a leader, we always think how it impacts anyone? How complex it can get if not shared or communicated or done right now? How far we can foresee the possible impact of or the cost of delaying this decision? These are specific to each individual’s internal leadership style. And this is where leadership is such a lonely state of mind.
Leadership is also about dealing with the struggle of versus—the struggle between the urgency of processing versus delivery, between serving the business versus customers versus teams. or between standards and shipping date (see a related post: Systems driven content supply chain—the struggle of versus). So as leaders, we are often weighing the trade-offs.
“There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” Thomas Sowell mentioned in their book, A Conflict of Visions.
Consider a few examples:
- You choose to evaluate Marketo vs Hubspot vs Pardot for the GTM strategy, or Intercom vs Zendesk for the Help Center strategy and you have the choice to frame the proposal. What works and for how long? Is it first for the team or for the organization? Do you draw the line or erase the line? How do you involve others in the decisions if you have the choice?
- You are working on the user research synthesis with the team and while assigning the metrics to key drivers in the final report, you have the choice to invite RevOps (Revenue Operations).
Leadership is in exercising these choices—small but could-be-critical decisions. The success lies in identifying these trade-offs.
For the team, these decisions may not be important to them immediately but some of them might remember how you decided, or how you communicated your decisions to them. If you can share how you make such decisions and how it helps anyone—they might work with an entirely different kind of energy. Leadership is about this confidence.
This is why I always feel that confidence is more important than trust.
Leadership is influenced by organization’s vision and culture too. For example if you are in Netflix, you exercise your choices differently because they encourage Lead by context, not by control (source, Slideshare opens in a new tab), when compared to how you might take a call in Zappos.
The leaders in design, product, marketing, sales, customer success, revenue, research, analysis, and other functions commit to their team’s work for the org goals. They work with each other when required. Content leadership is likely to find more use cases to work with other functions, and lot more frequently. This is because content is such a common denominator in every team’s work.
This is a great responsibility and an opportunity for content leaders. Our job is not to form a group of followers or believers who love our style of work. Rather than glorifying the results by giving credit to specific skills or people or decisions—content leaders should celebrate the results because of the collective intelligence of all the teams combined.
Our job is to build the right clarity and structure in the communications for its timing and the context—structure not for the templates but for the confidence of why and how of the role of branded content in product and business success.
When we talk about product or the organization itself, our job is to trigger some emotions for how we collectively make such an impact in some lives—in the customers’ lives, the employees’ lives, and many more lives. Content leadership is so well positioned to build this confidence.
This topic is part of my advanced course in product content strategy, content design, and UX Writing. See the course details for how we can find and add more meaning to our work.