I hear you askin’…
Isn’t a product leader just another word for a product manager?
Well, not exactly.
Product managers are responsible for a lot more than just managing products and to be honest there is no clear product leadership definition out there.
It’s discussed a lot, but few could agree on what it really means.
So, in this article, we’ll talk about and explore product leadership, what it means, and steps for more effective product leadership.
Plus, we’ll also go over 10 great product leaders to follow!
Let’s dive in.
What is Product Leadership?
Product leadership refers to a variety of management-level positions that are responsible for the company’s product success. Building and leading the right product team, owning the product’s strategic direction, and ensuring the team has the tools and systems it needs to create successful products are all examples of what a product leader’s work involves.
Remember: Product leadership does not refer to product managers who use their leadership skills to help their products succeed.
Instead, the term refers to senior executives—directors, vice presidents, and so on— who manage the product team and assist the company in identifying opportunities for product-market fit.
What are common Product Leadership titles?
Product leadership positions come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the company’s size, the market, and where its product responsibilities are located.
Not every company has its own product management department.
For example, some businesses place the product function under engineering. In those cases, the vice president of engineering might be the company’s product leader. Smaller or newer businesses can also lack a dedicated product department. In such companies, the product leadership position is often filled by an executive such as the CMO or CEO.
In companies that have a dedicated product department, the product leadership role may be filled by someone with a title such as:
- Chief Product Officer
- Vice President of Product Management
- Head of Product
- Director of Product
- Product Team Leader
- Group Product Manager
What are a Product Leader’s responsibilities?
One way to think about product leaders is that they take care of the organizational details, allowing the company’s product managers to focus on creating great products.
People in product leadership positions, for example, are responsible for high-level strategic initiatives such as:
- Recruiting, training, and mentoring new product team members.
- Developing projections for the costs, potential revenues, and timelines for various product development initiatives.
- Sharing the business objectives and product vision of senior management to ensure that product teams are developing strategies that comply with certain high-level objectives.
- Presenting plans to company executives and investors to secure a budget for the product team to move forward.
- Making sure that the product, design, development, and other teams have the resources and processes they need to complete their tasks successfully.
How do you become a good Product Leader?
Product leadership is a broad field of varying responsibilities from one company to the next.
However, any product leader can take steps to make themselves, their teams, their products, and their companies more successful.
5 Best Product Leadership Strategies and Tips
Here are the essential tips and strategies:
1. Build and mentor the right team.
A leader is only as good as their team.
To succeed, product leaders need to find the best people on whom they can rely and inspire those around them.
2. Develop processes and practices that improve teamwork.
Product leaders need to do more than simply hire all-star talent.
They also have to set up the team in a way that promotes creativity and collaboration, so they can maximize their effectiveness.
3. Create a culture of collaboration among all teams working on the product.
Product Development teams are the glue that holds an organization together.
It is their duty to foster collaboration across various departments in order for everyone to work more effectively and productively as a whole.
4. Promote a culture of customer-centricity.
The core of any product is the customer.
No matter how well-designed and efficient a company’s products are, they will not thrive unless customers love them.
Product leaders should keep their customers at the forefront of making the decisions about what goes into the products by keeping an eye on every aspect of its development from start to finish.
Here’s more about establishing a customer-centric culture.
5. Consistently experiment and learn.
Product teams have a huge impact on whether or not a company succeeds.
Successful product teams prioritize experiment-driven learning in today’s fast-paced business environment. As a result, product managers look for ways to encourage their teams to learn new things on a daily basis.
10 Product leaders to follow in 2021
1- Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix
Gibson Biddle is well-known for his inspiring and informative talks on a variety of product management subjects. He was also the former VP of Product at Netflix, where he implemented some changes that helped the service become the dominant force in the entertainment environment that it is today
Gibson has a bunch of insightful online and live talks on “Product Leadership” that you can find out more about here.
Also, on his LinkedIn, he posts about upcoming talks and podcast appearances, as well as about ideas coming from from his ‘Ask Gib’ newsletter.
2- Adrienne Tan, CEO of Brainmates
Adrienne Tan eats, sleeps, and breathes product development.
She is so passionate about it that she has managed to build a business and a product community around it. Her Australian company has a global reach in helping product managers in becoming product leaders and businesses in bringing their ideas to market.
Adrienne’s “word of the week” is a perfect reason to keep checking out her LinkedIn feed to see how she connects vocabulary to the problems and challenges that most product leaders face.
There are also videos and blog posts on diverse topics ranging from community building to coaching to prioritization techniques.
Adrienne also has a course on Product Leadership, which you can check out by clicking here.
3- Gyanda Sachdeva, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn
Gyanda started as a Senior Associate in Business Operations at LinkedIn in 2010.
She rose through the ranks to become a Vice President of Product Management within the last ten years. She’s a force to be reckoned with as she uses her social media to share resources for women in product, advocate diversity and inclusion in the industry, and celebrate the accomplishments of those who are underrepresented.
Gyanda is a revolutionary leader who is a must-follow on LinkedIn, the platform she greatly helped to make a huge success.
4- Matt Bilotti, Product Lead at Drift
He’s a player-coach who oversees a team of product managers while still doing his part.
Matt’s feed is full of quickly digestible advice on product leadership, such as the difference between craftspeople and creators and how to build out self-service funnels. There are also links to his most recent podcast episodes, so you won’t miss a deep dive into a compelling subject, a conversation with an industry expert, or one of his guest appearances on other podcasts, webcasts, and more.
5- Alexander Rechevskiy, Senior Product Manager at Google
If there is an aspect of product development that Alexander Rechevskiy isn’t aware of, then it isn’t worth knowing about!
Alexander is the complete package, with over ten years of experience in the industry and a hand in everything from design and production to promotion and monetization. On his LinkedIn, he promotes his forthcoming Clubhouse talks as well as videos in which he offers leadership and growing a professional network.
6- Tatyana Mamut, SVP of Product at Pendo
Tatyana Mamut is a transformational technology executive and Pendo’s Senior Vice President of Product.
By foreseeing the future, obsessing over customers, and assembling incredible teams, she produces game-changing results.
Tatyana has built a number of successful new products at Nextdoor, Amazon, Salesforce, and IDEO, executing both strategy and tactical team execution, and she is very passionate about thinking about strategy from both sides of the Boardroom table. Tatyana also serves on the boards of many organizations, including UserTesting and TMamut Advisors, as an adviser and fellow.
7- Soumeya Benghanem, Product Executive at VMware
Soumeya began her professional career in Product at Remedy Health Media with a background in consultancy and project management.
Soumeya is a Product Manager at VMware, where she manages product teams, strategy, mindset, and execution.
She is a change agent who is highly detail-oriented, experienced, personable, and extremely intelligent. Her ability to work through functional teams and stakeholders makes her an outstanding strategist, and her forthcoming Clubhouse talks can be found on her LinkedIn.
8- Rohan Rajiv, Product Manager at LinkedIn
Rohan Rajiv currently works at LinkedIn where he is dedicated to developing products that assist members in their job search.
He enjoys learning and solving issues that benefit his community, which is why he maintains an online blog dedicated to cultivating a learning-focused mentality that prioritizes becoming over being, where he chronicles his journey as a world student and forges meaningful relationships.
9- Teresa Torres, Product Discovery Coach at Product Talk
Teresa Torres is a product and design leader, who also is a major international influence to the product worlds as a Product Discovery Coach at Product Talk.
She’s devoted to assisting digital product teams in implementing continuous product discovery practices, and stresses the importance of good critical thinking practices to ensure that what the teams learn in their research activities is applied to the product decisions they make
And among her clients are Allstate CapitalOne, Spotify, and The Guardian.
She also has appeared in many product events, which you can check out here.
10- Diego Granados, Product Manager at Microsoft
Diego Granados is a multi-hat-wearing Product Manager at Microsoft who is an engineer at heart and a musician at soul.
He works closely with people in business and technical positions, as well as with designers and UX researchers, to create products that solve users’ problems and alleviate their pain points. Diego can communicate in a variety of languages, including geek, marketer, designer, salesperson, customer, and data whisperer.
There’s a huge difference between becoming a product manager and adopting the role of a product leader.
It’s always a huge plus if a product manager sees the big picture and enables those around them to be more efficient aswell, but a product leader HAS to do it.
Once you can enable those around you, and make their day-to-day more efficient, you’ll prove yourself as a product leader and I’m sure titles will follow!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are product managers leaders?
All product managers should be natural leaders to align different teams and push them to improvements, but a product manager is not always THE leader in a product team. There can and should be executives that oversee and lead the product team.
What do product leaders do?
Product managers, who are usually responsible for the improvement and optimization of the product and the alignment of different teams are almost always busy with their day-to-days, while product leaders that are at the exec level enable and lead product teams for more efficiency.
What is an example of product leadership?
An example of product leadership would be a product manager or the head of product management being persistent in their day-to-day while enabling others to be persistent as well and lead them to meet deadlines and improve the product.