By: Mark @Spectechular Silver
Product managers come from a range of different backgrounds, each carrying its own set of experiences and leadership tools.
A study by Mind the Product found that 40% of product managers had a degree in science or engineering, while 34% pursued a degree in business and 26% in the arts. There are a variety of different leadership styles that make for an effective product manager, and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. However, most successful product managers tend to fit into one of three styles. It is important to understand what style you fit into so that you can begin to make the most of your abilities, address your weaknesses and start producing better results.
Gartner Analysts talk about the importance of leadership: “Socially centered leaders exhibit a fact-based decision style that includes input from multiple sources.”
Here are the three main types of successful product managers.
The Master of All Trades
This kind of product manager builds trust by demonstrating knowledge in a range of areas that are applicable to product management. The Master of All Trades needs enough technical knowledge to gain the trust of engineers, enough design knowledge to work with the design experts, and so on down the production line.
To be effective at this style of leadership, the product manager needs to build an extensive and up-to-date knowledge base. If your understanding of a specific area is out of date, then you may end up alienating rather than inspiring your employees.
It is important for this style of product manager to be careful about micromanaging or becoming too overbearing. Just because you have the expertise, does not mean you should try to control every aspect of your employees’ work. Focus on using your knowledge to improve communication and build trust, instead of trying to control.
The Team Builder
This style of product manager focuses on creating the right kind of environment for employees to succeed. The Team Builder puts trust in his team, giving them the tools and conditions they need to produce great work. He works to create a unified group of experts who are devoted to making a great product.
While the Team Builder does not require the same level of technical expertise as the Master of All Trades, it is still important to have a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all employees, so that you can create the best environment for them to succeed. It is also important to keep everyone on track, as just one out of sync team member can derail your momentum.
While the Team Builder leads by creating the right kind of environment for a unified group effort, the Inspirer produces results by inspiring employees with his powerful overall vision and great communication skills. The Inspirer comes up with an idea that the whole team believes in and inspires everyone to achieve.
This style of product manager requires someone who has a strong connection with customers’ wants and needs. He also needs a firm understanding of what is feasible within the given technological capabilities and timeframes. Great ideas will not produce results if your team cannot see them through to completion.
The Inspirer needs to keep an open mind. Showing commitment to your vision can inspire others, but a product manager whose views are too rigid will only stifle the creativity of his employees, ultimately to the detriment of the product.
Gartner Analysts continue: “When we speak of the socially centered leader, we don’t just mean the manager whose position is assured on the organization chart. We also include anyone who is in any ad hoc leadership role. When you think about how much project-oriented work we all participate in on a regular basis, it’s easy to see that there may be as many as two to four times the number of informal leaders as formally appointed managers.”
There is not just one right style of product management. Successful product managers rely on their strengths and past experience to produce extraordinary results. The average product manager has ten years of work experience, during which time he has been cultivating the skills he needs to perform his role effectively. Understanding how your strengths and experiences influence your style is an important step to becoming a successful product manager.
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