We have all heard this analogy about Product Managers are CEOs of the product ever since Ben Horowitz compared Product Managers to CEOs in 1998, Since then some PMs have been critical of the analogy & some people, however, defend the comparison.
The difference of opinion around product managers should come as no surprise. From one company to the next, Product Managers work on a variety of products, have different stakeholder groups, and work along with different points in the product development lifecycle.
I confess I’m not a huge fan of the CEO metaphor. The main reason is that PMs lead without authority. They don’t have everyone on the team report to them the way a CEO does. Instead, PMs have to lead with influence, by example and find ways to support and add value without having any team member actually report to them.
What is a CEO?
The letters CEO stand for Chief Executive Officer. This is the highest-ranking executive manager in a corporation or organization. The CEO has responsibility for the overall success and livelihood of the entire organization. The CEO has the ultimate authority to make final decisions for a company.
So, if a product manager is not a CEO, then who are these PMs?
Role of the product manager is not a job it is a mindset they take to making people WANT to do, what they should do.
What are the common traits of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King (MLK)?
Both leaders possessed the ability to be both a transformational leader and a transactional leader has been studied and commented on by many. Fortunately, we have several written works and some audio recordings that help us get a clear idea of what forces saw him emerge as a leader and do so successfully. In itself, this should serve as a lesson for leaders and managers to constantly document their own journey not only for personal self-reflection but also for their followers to learn from.
Leading by example
As leaders, we need to ask ourselves to what extent do we lead by example? In simple small ways, Leadership qualities are natural for some people and learned for others. Leadership is the process by which one individual influences the behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts of others. Leaders set the direction by helping others see what lies ahead and rising to the challenges. They see everyone’s potential and encourage and inspire those around them. Leading by example is a trait of a true leader. A group of individuals with poor leadership will quickly degenerate into conflict because everyone sees things differently and will naturally lean toward different solutions.
Common traits of a Product Manager
- Absolute clarity of purpose
- Strong work ethic
- Strong people skills
- Self Starter
- Open Minded
- A millionaire mindset
Defining a Product manager
The product manager is the person who has the vision and sees an opportunity in the marketplace. They should have the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage the products along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. Spirit of a product manager is characterized by innovation and risk-taking and is an essential part of a product ability to succeed in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Earlier, I confessed I’m not a huge fan of the CEO metaphor because I strongly believe that a product manager should have an entrepreneurial mindset. Well, brace yourself. Shocker! Entrepreneurs Often Are Not CEO Material because the hard-cold truth is that most entrepreneurs simply do not encompass the skill set to be the CEO of their own organization. An entrepreneur needs to create a product or service. The onus is on them to create the “something from nothing”. Whereas CEOs need to provide the infrastructure for longer-term success.
Roebuck defines entrepreneurial leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal using proactive entrepreneurial behavior by optimizing risk, innovating to take advantage of opportunities, taking personal responsibility and managing change within a dynamic environment for the benefit of organization”.
An organization needs one CEO and many with an entrepreneurial leadership mindset for its success.