|Leadership is a frequent topic of discussion within the product management community. You won’t find much of a debate on the topic of whether product management is a leadership position, but you will find much discussion on the depth of the leadership. The discussion will span across whether product management should have people management responsibilities, whether they can be accountable for key performance indicators or just generally how to be a better leader.
In a recent webinar , David Locke suggested he though the product manager role was more accurately as titled as Product Leader. Perhaps David can comment as to why he thinks this title might be more accurate. He discusses this in the webinar around the 44 minute mark.
The product management leadership angst generally occurs when it appears like a lack of authority is blocking your plan. The reality is that your powers of influence are probably lacking.
If you know me (actually maybe no one knows this), I love word definitions. I look up one word a day, mostly due the fact that I had a history of not reading very much. I am reading much more now. Anyway, here is how the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines authority and influence. Actually they have a few different definitions for each word (of course they do), but I thought these were closer aligned to product management than the others.
From a product management perspective, I typically get nervous if you are managing a product and people. The people distract from the time that the product requires and not managing people will generally preclude you from the authoritative leadership you might be seeking.
The power of influence is perhaps the most important tool in your professional toolkit. It should be a skill that you are constantly working to improve. It blends in a number of your personal traits including likability, compassion, empathy and understanding. But it also requires that you put the effort on your end to be able to justify anything you might need. People can be more easily led if you use market-, fact-or customer-based evidence for your requirements.
I tell people that product management is 90% leadership and of that 100% will be by influence and supported by all your market sensing activities.
Again, I defer you to the two experts on the topic of product management and leadership:
Image Source: Bonner Center for Service and Learning