The following role description is based on my personal experience of working with incredible product leaders. These are the guidelines and principles I follow and try to live up to.

A product leader defines the strategy and vision of the product, establishes an organization that executes and learns, and creates a culture that builds amazing products. Similar to all senior employees, this person is expected to impact the entire organization through alignment, communication, and taking action when needed.

Product Vision and Strategy

They are responsible for building, curating and pruning the product vision and strategy. They must take inputs from across the organization and refine them into a vision and strategy that can be understood by everyone in the organization.

They are responsible for:

  • Aligning the product vision with the company vision and strategies
  • Communicating the product vision so everyone understands the destination
  • Defining and prioritizing the strategies (aka a roadmap)

Tip: Ask everyone in the organization to “Imagine your company is wildly successful in 3 years. What does that look like?” If the answers are different, the product leader has their work ahead of them.

Execution

To put it simply, a product leader needs to be a multiplier. Their impact should be measured by how they impact the team around them not by their own individual impact.

They are responsible for:

  • Understanding how team process and culture can be developed to drive execution
  • Creating cross-organizational problem solving skills that focuses on action
  • Communicating context for bottom-up decision making
  • Protecting the team from shifting priorities and interruptions

Product Culture

They need to create a culture focused on the user and the product. They will be the voice of the user within the company. They will push for process that focuses less on territory and more on problem solving. At the core of it, they will help to support the entire organization in making good decisions.

They are responsible for:

  • Keeping everyone focused on the customer problem not the organizational problems
  • Defining what “product” means within the organization
  • Creating a culture that accepts failure, promotes learning, and prioritizes constant innovation
  • Mentoring product folks within the organization
  • Implementing and guiding process to measure success and impact (OKRs or something else)

Asking the hard questions

Questions are the antidote to biases (confirmation bias, bandwagon bias, and more). Product leaders need to be able and willing to put themselves out there and ask the hard questions.

They are responsible for:

  • Willingness to bring up the topics that people want to ignore
  • Asking questions that focus people and explore alternatives
  • Pushing for strategic clarity
  • Questioning the assumptions

Tip: A product leader should be a coach for everyone in the organization. They are the person that everyone goes to for advice or guidance. They don’t have authority, but they have a lot of influence!