Product Leadership

What is Product Leadership and How Do You Get it Right?

When it comes to bringing winning products to market repeatedly, a lot depends on product leadership. It is to a large extent what determines whether your offering would be a winner or flop. What does leadership entail in product development? What qualities should a leader have or what should he/she do to succeed?

What is Product Leadership?

Product leadership is about providing customers with excellent solutions in a consistent manner. It is a strategic role aimed at releasing superior products time and again. Product strategy, vision, and goals influence what form it would take. Product managers usually provide this leadership. They direct efforts and processes to identify products valuable to users and so worth building. A leader essentially spends his time trying to figure out useful products.

Leadership is somewhat similar to management, the other major aspect of a product manager’s job. It is not even impossible to see people talking about them in the same vein. However, there is a difference between them. When talking about leadership, the focus is more on determining what products would add value to users when released. Product management, on the other hand, is about making sure the process of developing a product runs cost-effectively.

What Successful Product Leaders Do

For product leadership to lead to repeated successes, certain qualities are essential. These can not only help you to be efficient but also to improve the efficiency of those working with you. Let’s consider a number of them.

Guiding through Uncertainty

Without a doubt, uncertainty is something product teams will have to contend with from time to time. Nothing is guaranteed until it is all over. Product managers, as leaders, must prove themselves capable enough to deal with this problem. Uncertainty can make product team members lose steam at times. A PM needs to have some level of curiosity and be open enough to adapt to changing situations to lead effectively when that happens.

Accepting responsibility

A product leader should be someone that accepts responsibility for every that the team does. He shouldn’t be someone that comes to the fore for praise when things are going right. It is important for him to also take the blame when things go wrong rather than pointing fingers.

There is no doubt that team members can find it demoralizing when they are blamed for things to plan. This can hinder the growth and initiatives of teams. Good leadership means sitting down with your team to try to find the reasons why there was a failure, without blaming anyone for it directly.

Encouraging joint decision-making

Effective leadership doesn’t mean being in charge of everything. You could burn out or become less efficient.

It helps to realize that everyone in your team is a potential leader. You should not see yourself as the central authority whose sole decisions the team has to work with. Seek to give team members opportunities to exhibit their potentials.

Decentralize leadership by asking for ideas from your team. Delegate part of what you do to capable members. This can make individuals in your team to feel important and make them more likely to put in their best.

The collaboration thus promoted gives you access to ideas you otherwise might not have had. It provides you with diverse perspectives due to differences in how we process information.

Being emotionally intelligent

Arguably, one of the best qualities of a good product leader is emotional intelligence, also called EQ. Many people become stressed when faced with uncertainty because of a problem in this area.

The ability to stay in control of your emotions when confronted by a stressful situation is a sign of good emotional intelligence. This is what you put to use in guiding your team through uncertainty and not become overwhelmed.

Apart from self-awareness and the ability to stay in control of your emotion, leadership also entails showing empathy. You should try to see or understand why the other person sees a situation rather tough. This enables you to be more effective in addressing their fear.

The Leadership Process

The primary duty of a product manager is to promote the development of usable and valuable products. And this is mainly what leading a product aims at. A product leader thinks of the customer, the market, and the company in deciding what to produce.

The first step is to identify or define people who would find a product valuable. It is after finding out a genuine need for the product that a leader proceeds to determine how to develop a usable offering.

Leadership depends a great deal on the product strategy. This is useful for aligning teams around a vision – for them to see how they come in.

The strategy document should explain the problem to solve and how the product in focus comes into play. It also describes what you intend to do to ensure your product is a winner. It gives an outline of the tasks needed to develop a solution.

Managing product development is what follows after deciding what to build and having your strategy document ready.

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