Ben Horowitz’s much-repeated phrase describing product managers as the CEOs of their products has led lots of people to get enthused about product management. In this Sunday rewind we look at how MTP co-founder Martin Eriksson disagrees strongly with this thinking. Says Martin: “Unless you’re the founder and the product manager at the same time, you are not the CEO of anything”.
The CEO is ultimately responsible for the success of the business—even that similarity is a stretch, says Martin. A product manager ultimately has a CEO behind them somewhere, and can always pass the buck.
Martin says that because most product managers don’t pass the buck, this ownership of the problem and willingness to make the hard decisions means that product managers believe they are being a CEO. “However, there is a massive difference between having someone behind you or actually having the final say.”
Martin emphasises that product management is a team sport, and even product leaders are not CEOs of their products. He says: “You are not Steve Jobs, you are not a lone genius designing a product from your ivory tower. Never forget that as a product leader you are only as good as your team. Setting them up for success and giving them the space and air cover to do their best is ultimately how you and your product will be successful.”
Read Product managers — you are not the CEO of anything in full to get an understanding of why it can be dangerous for product managers to buy into the idea that they are the CEOs of their products.