Shreyas Doshi+ Your Authors @shreyas early PM & first PM lead @stripe. formerly a PM lead @twitter @google @yahoo. I share offbeat ideas here—useful for some, useless for many, not for everyone ❤️ Jun. 27, 2020 4 min read + Your Authors

Let’s talk about High Agency: an attitude I’ve seen in every successful product manager & leader I’ve known.

Some ppl are born/raised with High Agency. It can also be developed later in life.

High agency is a prerequisite for making a profound impact in one's life & work


High Agency is about finding a way to get what you want, without waiting for conditions to be perfect or otherwise blaming the circumstances. High Agency People either push through in the face of adverse conditions or manage to reverse the adverse conditions to achieve goals

Highly Talented, High Agency people are Game Changers for their teams & companies.

Highly Talented, Low Agency people are everywhere around us. These Frustrated Geniuses might have a success or two, but, in the long run, end up capitulating to “the system”.

Some Go Getters become Game Changers because of their High Agency.

Game Changers are not very common and, once discovered, they’re expensive to hire.

When you find them, do whatever you can to get them on your team.

When hiring, I prefer Go Getters over Frustrated Geniuses.

In all cases, the third factor to look for is High Integrity.

My policy: Never compromise on Integrity, not even for Game Changers.

Now, back to High Agency.

What Low Agency vs. High Agency looks like:

Note Low Agency Bob’s instinctive reaction when faced with a tough challenge. Note how everything is an “other” problem, not a "Bob problem"

Note how everything High Agency Alice says comes from a place of what 𝘴𝘩𝘦 can control

Now, I’ve worked with, managed & mentored 100s of PMs & leaders during my career. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across an otherwise talented PM whose impact & career is being held back because they are like Low Agency Bob.

I’ve also come across PMs who have done incredibly well in their career, despite not having fancy degrees from fancy universities, mainly because they are like High Agency Alice.

And that is why I listed High Agency as one of the necessary traits for product managers when I summarized Product Management in one tweet a couple of months ago.

The tweet:

By now, we’ve looked at what High Agency is and why it's important.

Naturally, the next question is:
How does one cultivate High Agency?

My first recommendation here would be to read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one more time. The framework of Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern is something I’ve gone back to countless times whenever there’s a temptation to recede to a Low Agency mindset.

Observing and adjusting your language and self-talk is an important aspect of cultivating High Agency.

From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 

Here’s my own answer to the question of cultivating High Agency. Here I’ve split High Agency into the Traits you need & the Skills you need. To cultivate High Agency, work on these component Skills & Traits. Ownership Mindset is perhaps the most important of the 3 Traits.

High Agency is related to the concept of “Jugaad”.


Particularly, Creative Execution (an essential component skill of High Agency) and Jugaad are quite similar.

Nice example of Jugaad:

Want more examples of what High Agency looks like?

In the Good Product Managers, Great Product Managers thread, you will see High Agency as a common theme across most of the points.

.@RealCharlesLee has a good thread with concrete examples and situations where PMs can demonstrate High Agency. I see these types of Low Agency tendencies all the time, even from exceptionally talented PMs.

George Mack has a nice Twitter thread on High Agency.

Last but not least, cultivating High Agency won’t be easy.

But I assure you that it isn’t inscrutable magic. You can learn it

And I also assure you that becoming a High Agency individual will be profoundly rewarding for you & for the people you work with

All the best!

Footnote 1:
High Agency, from a recent presentation in which I share a few of my own experiences with it at Yahoo, Google, and Twitter: 

Footnote 2:
In the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, the authors talk about To Me and By Me (among other things). This is another way of thinking about High Agency.


Twitter: @ConsciousLG


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