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The 4 pillars that make super product leaders

Few awesome products come into being by mistake or a fluke of luck. Behind them is usually a great product team, focused on delivering value and being creative.

To cultivate a prospering and innovative product organisation, product leadership should obsess about four key topics. Each topic fuels and supports the others; they are symbiotic and together support delivering amazing products and grow company profits. They are:

  1. Continuous team development

  2. Product team culture

  3. Product vision and outcome focus

  4. Product discovery execution

Team development deserves investment and focus as engaged, growing talent positively drives everything. Honest and candid but caring feedback gives your product managers a platform from which to actively grow and improve. A support-and-challenge framework will develop their skills and effectiveness. This includes soft skills, which are absolutely key to successful product management. Development can be limited by product managers that do not demonstrate them.

Product culture has to encourage product managers to make mistakes quickly and celebrate learning while respecting other disciplines and the user. A safe environment is key to a collaborative culture, which is critical for product discovery. There is no place for ego in product management; it destroys collaboration.

Product vision aligns the organisation in working to achieve common goals and empowers teams to wow the user and the shareholders. It should bring everybody together in a meaningful manner, using clear metrics that matter.

A clear set of product principles helps to increase autonomy among product managers and works as a framework for strategy. Your product strategy should bring your organisation’s vision and long-term goals to reality by defining the outcomes (not outputs!) necessary to achieve the vision.

Product execution focuses on discovery and delivery, which makes up a typical product manager’s daily activities. It is not project management, BAU, customer support or order inputting. Product people must validate their learnings to define what to build in order to deliver mutual value to their users and the business. If product managers are not talking to customers every week, they will not understand the customers’ problems properly and cannot deliver product market fit.

It’s ultimately up to the product office — VP of Product / Director of Product / CPO — to establish and firm up the foundations of these four key areas and lead by example. Crucially, they need to talk to customers every week themselves.

Obsessing on these four key areas will not only help product teams to perform, but also result in more the creation of amazing products with the potential to change the world.