In the first episode of the Product Management Pulse podcast, my guest Dr. Paul and I discussed the Five Factors of Leadership, originally posted in May 2008. I have updated the content and re-post it here.
Product managers have to be leaders (in the true sense of the word) because they have the responsibility on their shoulders to get products out the door on time, with high quality and under budget. The kicker – and the reason they must be leaders – is the people they rely on to get the job done do not (usually) report them. Their success depends on their ability to build consensus and inspire team members to do great things.
The following five factors, if understood and applied, will improve the leadership role of product managers and increase their value within their organization:
- People are assets: In any company or organization, the real assets are the people. Their intellect—along with personality, skills, knowledge, character, integrity, and other things collectively referred to as “human life value”—create the true value in any organization. When product managers see the people on the team as the true assets, and treat them accordingly, they will command the respect of a leader.
- Trust is vital: Those who value their team members build trust. The trust goes both ways: product managers need to carry out their tasks in such a way that the team members can trust them. They (the PMs) also need to trust that the team members will do what they have committed to do.
- Knowledge is power: Truthfully, knowledge is potential power; only when knowledge is applied does it become true power. Product managers must be learners. Many resources exist for learning: books, trade magazines, blogs, podcasts, analyst reports, etc. As they accumulate knowledge and put it into action, their success will increase.
- Paradigm provides focus: The way in which product managers see their world – their ‘paradigm’ – influences their effectiveness as a leader. They can take the ‘victim’ approach or the ‘agent/hero’ approach. If they blame others and wonder why the world (or their team, or their customers) is against them they are taking the victim approach. If they take accountability for their actions and do whatever it takes to succeed, they become agents of positive change. They become heroes to those whom they lead. Not ‘hero’ in the sense of super heroes, but in the sense of someone who does more than they are expected (and probably paid) to do.
- Decisions determine future: Leaders make decisions regularly. Successful product managers understand their markets and make difficult decisions that are not always accepted by team members or customers. They do not make decisions carelessly or in cavalier style, but they also do not cower from the responsibility to make a judgment call. They make choices and stand behind them. Ultimately they make decisions that lead their teams and their products to succeed.
These factors apply to many other disciplines and aspects of business. The focus on product management stems – as mentioned – from product managers needing to lead without having management authority over the people responsible for their success. Product managers who understand and apply these factors will become effective leaders.