Leadership is a critical skill that Product Managers must learn and develop throughout their careers. These skills can be cultivated through a hunger for knowledge, ongoing learning and the exponential effect of increasing business experience. Product Managers are able to transform ideas, facilitate debate, and process market signals into actionable vision for a product or segment. Some key areas to focus on:
You are always on stage
Stay calm, even when your hair’s on fire
Learn and grow
Employ integrity in everything you do
Stand for something important
Meet your commitments
Below are some leadership behaviors and mindset every Product Manager should constantly improve upon:
Networking and bridge building
Facilitate and collaborate on scientific problem solving (root cause analysis, not assumptions)
Lead organizational change
Have strong integrity – do what you say
How do you improve your skills and experience to become a strong leader?
Be a student
Be a teacher
Be a facilitator – encourage discussion about the business
Be a supporter – help or coach others
Be a recognizer – recognize people’s efforts by reinforcing positive contributions and provide feedback
Be a thinker – create your own “you” as you form opinions, gain wisdom, and become a sought after adviser
Be a product therapist – listen clearly and help others help themselves through questioning, guiding and suggesting
Be sure to always look, listen and ask plenty of questions. What is most critical is to ensure everyone knows where they are going, when they need to arrive, and what they must achieve. This is very evident while managing the Product Launch Process.
As long as the Product Manager clearly understands the direction the organization needs to move towards, and explains it simply to everyone, the chances of success are greatly improved. Remember, everyone has to be focused on the “same sheet of music”.
The best leaders are storytellers, cheerleaders and facilitators. They reinforce their sense of direction or vision with words and actions. They also must have the ability to make decisions and have the courage to act upon them.
And above all leaders must be positive to encourage and convince stakeholders the direction is the best way to achieve success. As General Colin Powell once said, “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
And as classic strategist Clausewitz said, “Once it has been decided … what the war is about, and what it can do, the way to do it is easily found. But to follow the way unerringly, to carry a plan through, not to be distracted a thousand times by a thousand inducements – that calls for strength of character, assurance, and clearness of mind.”
Famed GE CEO Jack Welch felt the following were guidelines for good leadership:
Integrity – do not have two agendas, there is only one way, the straight way
Setting a tone – the leader’s intensity determines the organization’s intensity
Maximizing the organization’s intellect – be open and spread good
People first, strategy second – great strategies need great leaders
Informality – make sure everybody counts. Titles do not matter
Self-confidence – have the courage to be open. Be comfortable in your own skin
Passion – intensity covers sins. Leaders care.
Stretch – Reach for more than you thought possible
Celebrations – energize your organization. Make sure teams have fun accomplishing their objectives.
Above all else, do not be reckless, do not act cowardly, do not be quick tempered, have a sense of humor and be compassionate. Remember your position and how critical it is to the success of your organization. In addition, always work to create a culture of learning & trust, not one of blame.