When to be a Dhoni, or a Kohli, or a Kumble

The world is full of different kinds of leaders- the charismatic (think Narendra Modi, at the White House), the decisive (think the commander of a space shuttle who has to make split-second decisions), the quiet (think Tim Cook) or authoritarian (think Bill Gates, when driving Microsoft). We need not cast our net too wide to study leadership styles - in fact, understanding the contrasting leadership styles of the current Captains of our Men in Blue can be fascinating and educational. Their new Coach Anil Kumble is perhaps the elder of the three when it comes to steely determination in leadership quotient.

Which brings us to the question at hand - do leadership styles really matter? What style should a Product Manager adopt as she goes around the organisation and corrals stakeholders from different departments into supporting her with her product goals? Add to this mix the fact that a Product Manager is usually an individual contributor and has to exercise influence with people up and down the chain of command without any authority at all.

Here are some leadership “avatars” a Product Manager must don while doing her job -

Be a Dhoni with Deadlines - When deadlines loom on the calendar, Murphy’s law seems to kick into high gear. Anything that can go wrong seems to do so. It pays to be ice cold when this happens - to rely on data to make decisions, and to keep a cool mind to dig into your memory bank for best known methods of what worked previously. It’s time to bank on process and rigor during such crunch situations, and come out a winner.

Indian fans have seen Dhoni do this time in and out. After an improbable one run win over Bangladesh in the World T20 earlier this year, he said, “In a situation like this, it's literally chaos. What you are trying to do is you're trying to manage chaos”. In other words, managing the chaos with a cool mind is the key to win.

Leak the passion like Kohli - When you’re pitching to investors, or showcasing your product to the press or even motivating the team to put in that extra effort before launch, it pays to leak the passion. When people see that you care for what you’re building, and see the spark in your eyes when you talk of a feature or benefit, they will start caring too. Talk about the perseverance that went into the design, about the insights you got during customer interviews that motivated you to excel - give a human face to the endeavour.

This is something Virat Kohli excels at. He is passionate about many things, but every fan knows he’s most passionate about winning for India, and they root for him.

Never say die like Kumble - Being a great product manager does not mean just launching a slew of great products. There will be wins and losses along the way. What matters though, is the determination to not give up - to learn the valuable lessons that only failure can teach and get back into the field and play. This is something “successful” entrepreneurs - product managers each and every one of them - experience repeatedly.

This is something Anil Kumble - newly minted India team coach, international player for two decades and scalper of 619 test wickets demonstrated in spades through his career. Oldtimers still remember that day in Antigua when he came out of the pavilion with a heavily bandaged jaw and bowled out Brian Lara. The new leadership trio at the helm of Indian cricket are fantastic managers of their product. Their contrasting styles are inspirational for their team, the fans and for all of us.

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