What is the job of a product leader? How should a Head of Product, a VP of Product, or a Product Team Lead behave?
Many articles have been written on this subject, most of them either by product consultants or people holding one of the above titles. But what if we ask these questions to the people they’re supposed to lead? What does a product manager think about this? What do they want from their boss?
A few weeks ago I did just that. I work as a coach for product leaders and so the product I work on every day is “better, more skilled product leaders”. Continuing this metaphor, product managers are a user group of this product.
I began with some user research and created a 10-question survey on this topic. I now have 81 responses, and I’m excited to share the results with you.
Summary: More State of the Nation Than a Helpful Guide for Product Leaders
Most of the product managers who responded have four to six years’ experience, and most of the survey participants work with between one and four peer product managers in their organisation. The survey asked them questions about their best and worst boss and the good and bad about the product leader they currently work with.
Micro management is what everyone hates the most. A product vision is the most crucial thing for a product leader to work on. In general respondents think it is important for the product lead to be a team player and say that what they love about their current boss is that they care about their team.
Having looked at the survey responses in detail, it’s my interpretation that the answers say more about the current state of product leadership than they do about how product people want their leadership to be… but it was ever so. For example: most people have read about OKRs and want to try this framework. So if you ask them “what should your boss be doing more of” they might well list OKRs. And if micro-managed people are answering the survey (and hey leaders, that really needs to change!!) then OKRs comes up as a big topic.
So perhaps the survey results are not as actionable for product leaders as I would have liked them to be, but they’re still a valid resource for product leaders when they think about their leadership style.
I’ve puzzled over how to present the results to our product community and in the end I decided to just show you the results. You are all clever people and will go figure things out for yourselves. I’ve created tag clouds for the open-ended questions and charts for the ranked/rated ones, all shown below. Enjoy, and please feel free to discuss the results in the comments section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Answers to open-ended questions
Describe the worst product leader you can imagine.
Describe the best product leader you can imagine.
Think about your current boss now. What are the things he/she does well?
When thinking about your boss, what are the things you would love see improved?
Describe what you’ve learned from your product lead in the last 12 months?
If you were promoted to product lead, what would your first 100 days look like? What steps you would take to create a successful product team?
If there are three things that every product leader should care about, what would they be?
Answers to the ranked/rated questions: How important are the following for a product leader?
What do you Think?
Does this encapsulate what you think about product leadership? How can we move the conversation forward? Let me know what you think, and please feel free to discuss the results in the comments section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.