Book Review: “Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.

We have all witnessed this phenomenon – organizations typically choose some of their best individual contributors or domain experts to be in leadership positions (past record is the best indicator of future performance!). Irrespective of whether or not expectations at leadership roles are specified and understood, this transition from being an expert to a manager is often hard and bewildering. This book that I read recently (“Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.) proposes a framework to bridge the chasm between an expert and a leader

One of the assertions the book makes is that leaders aren’t leading because we haven’t clearly defined the term or differentiated their work from their team’s work. The book is written in a conversation style describing struggles of a co-founder Raj, who is one of the best scientific minds in the field his medical research based start-up operates in. Raj along with Franky and Mak started this company seven years ago. After the sudden loss of Mak, Raj had been elevated from Chief Science Officer to CEO. A year into his elevation, Raj has gone back to the shell of conducting experiments while the rest of the org is on the brink of collapse due to chaos and lack of leadership clarity. Franky has hired an executive coach, Lake, to help solve the problem by working with Raj. Rest of the book narrates how Lake and Franky understand the situation and turn-around. It’s an easy read (but hard to reflect!), I will just list out few of my takeaways

  1. As a leader, taking responsibility for your actions is important. Taking all of the responsibility may rob others of theirs!
  2. “The ECT(M) Transformation Model helps leaders guide individual, team and organizational development efforts. The first three phases (Explore, Clarify and Transform) are often repeated multiple times in succession until the process and outcomes meet the established criteria
  3. The big takeaway about emotional intelligence is it can be developed, versus more stable elements of who we are, like personality or raw intelligence
  4. As a leader, your coaching has to match your mentee’s level of understanding. This is the reason why platitudes like “have more frequent interactions with stakeholders” don’t exactly work for someone who is having a hard time working with others. Because often struggling person doesn’t understand how having more meetings will help
  5. One must be aware of own “unconscious competence” to bridge any gap especially when assessing other people
  6. Leadership is a process of social organization meant to yield willing, capable and sustainable communities of effort
    1. Community of effort implies a group of people who are united by their willingness and ability to act interdependently
    2. Leadership is the process we use to cultivate a community of effort. If you could do it alone, you wouldn’t need to lead
    3. The important thing is to build a strong leadership foundation. This means focusing on three key areas: structuring, operating, and perfecting your communities of effort
  7. Leading is the active engagement in the process of cultivating willing, capable, and sustainable communities of effort while leaders are those who accept accountability for this effort
  8. Your primary goal as a leader is assembling a high-performance engine, not winning the race! Winning the race is the team’s primary objective and your secondary objective
  9. Every leader has to create her own Leadership SOP basis what works for her, team and organization and keep it refining (perfecting)

Fig 1: Key Components of LeadershipSOP Framework

It’s a great practicable book, would recommend reading and importantly reflecting on it to create one’s own LeadershipSOP model which is indeed a harder task!

Six Months Later…

It’s been slightly more than 6 months since I lost my father. Here is how things have happened since then

  1. From a distance, your understanding of the person gone becomes more refined and objective. My father was definitely a more courageous, caring parent and action-oriented than I thought him to be earlier. Things may not have changed to his liking but he did try in the moment
  2. Grief cycles keep coming, less frequent but probably more guilt-ridden. This happens suddenly: one awkward dream, one Google Photos reminder, someone relating an incident involving him, shared dreams, deja vu when chatting with kids…
  3. Feeling that he isn’t any longer around hasn’t yet sunk in. Also probably because 6 months – 1 year duration was what we used to meet anyway so it feels like nothing much has changed beyond one nightmarish occurrence
  4. Worrying about the surviving parent gets more acute. You want to maximize the time together. I will likely bring my mother to live with us together, after the annual rituals are over. This should also be freeing from the constant worry about how she is feeling / doing and what I can do to support her in the moment
  5. You are more circumspect about expressing feelings of loss and repentance. Everyone in close circles deals with grief differently, people appear to have moved on, you are not sure whether expressing difficulties you are facing to others isn’t troubling them. So probably better to grieve alone and in silence
  6. Videos are absolute treasure troves. While going through one of the videos I randomly shot, my father was discussing someone long gone. He commented something like offsprings of the people who have done some good karmas in their lives are generally contented and happy

Many things learnt, will end the post here


Hi, glad to see you here!

I am Ram Sevak – a product manager based out of Bengaluru, India. I have been in the field of product management for more than 12 years. I have also been fortunate enough to work with diverse set of organisations having different business models, life stages and corporate and funding structures. If you are a product person, you probably know why it matters. This is brief synopsis of the product orgs I have worked with

  • Flipkart: e-commerce market leader in India. Acquired by Walmart Inc. in 2018
  • Gaana: market leader in music streaming in India. Owned by BCCL, media behemoth which runs the Times of India. Later raised funds from Tencent
  • Zopper: a pre-market fit start-up in hyperlocal domain. Raised series B from Tiger Global and few HNIs. Parts of it were acquired by Flipkart Group
  • Naukri: part of Info Edge, a large-cap Indian public company. More than 70% market share in job classifieds, market leader since 2004

I firmly believe there is an inherent virtue in sharing the knowledge and experience, more so for a challenging role like that of a product manager. We can all be better by sharing our journeys together. This website is an attempt towards that objective

What can a regular reader or subscriber of this expect?

I intend to summarise books that I read and which I think can be valuable to product community. I summarise product articles and books herein so that the readers can remain updated with the latest in product craft, without necessarily investing too much of their time

Who is this site aimed at?

Product folks, founders, VCs. YMMV

How often would the site be updated?

I’d strive to publish at least one post in a month