The Vision Quest

In many Native American cultures, the vision quest is a turning point in life, to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. When a youth is older, they will go on a personal quest alone in the wilderness. This usually lasts for a number of days with the intent of providing insight into a direction that will be pursued in life.

For anyone with a desire to lead product management, it takes more than raw talent or desire. I believe it takes a “vision quest” of sorts to prepare for leadership. A modern-day vision quest may be too extreme, but you need to prepare by spending time with those who’ve made the journey. By connecting yourself with strong leadership, you can listen, ask difficult questions and discuss the issues before your journey.

In a recent post by Michael Hopkin, Michael shared some insights from a Wall Street Journal article on “Do You Really Want to Be a Leader?” This article is a recommended read. Three questions were asked by the authors that each person desiring to lead should ask themselves.

How far do you want to go? “To reach higher office and to fulfill its obligations, you must continuously make choices that will affect other people’s money and lives. And you will be doing this in a context where other people will want your position or will be competing with you for the next higher position. It is easy to criticize the competence of those with greater responsibilities than ourselves, and even easier to fantasize about how we would do the job better.”

What are you willing to invest? “Admitting to yourself what your limitations are can be difficult. But if you want to lead, you face tough choices about how much effort you must put in and in which areas you need to grow.”

How will you keep it up? “Over several decades, you need ways to keep yourself going when you are not being recognized and rewarded for your performance—and to deal with criticism, resistance, setbacks and people disliking you or what you are asking them to do.”

“Many who rise to positions of leadership become more closed and set in the ways that have brought them success so far. So periodically, senior executives must create timeouts to review where they are investing their time and energy, to ensure that they remain capable of generating new behaviors to deal with new challenges.”

Tribal Council: If you really want to lead, you have to discover who you are, your motives and desires to lead and what you are willing to sacrifice. With a New Year upon us, its a great time to take a personal “vision quest” of sorts. Find a quiet location, leave the mobile devices at home, and take a notebook to jot down some notes about your next quest and the new year.

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  • Mike Henry  On December 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Good post Jim. Keep it up. And thanks for reminding all of us that we must answer the question: “What are we willing to invest?” I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past by beginning an effort without knowing the answer to that question. Thanks, Mike…

    • Product Management Tribe  On December 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks for the comment. May we all take a closer look at what we are “willing to invest” and recognize that the best leaders are thinking outwardly, not inward.

  • Michael Ray Hopkin  On December 22, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Jim, the ‘vision quest’ comparison is spot on, and I agree this is a great time of year to take the journey. The effort we put forth today to understand our leadership capabilities and make specific plans for improvement will pay dividends in the months and years to come.


    • Product Management Tribe  On December 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I agree to understand our leadership capabilities, we need to assess and plan to reap the benefits.

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