Product Leader Skills

Which skills would you advise your past self to pick up as a PM transitioning to a Product Leader?

What is it that you have learned over your career as a PM leader that you would advise your younger self to study and concentrate on?


I’m not sure if this qualifies as a skill per se, although the adage “trust but verify” is frequently used. Particularly when interacting with executives from other corporations (for large companies especially). They will frequently demand particular features or reports, but they are flat out in the wrong. The success of a product depends on understanding the needs of the actual end customers.

Ask why again and with curiosity.


For every work involving individual accountability or responsibility, the maxim “Trust but verify” is applicable.


I would repeat the following to myself:

  • Avoid falling in love with your own ideas.

  • The best antidote for ignorance is experience

  • Never accept criticism from someone from whom you wouldn’t want advice.

  • The best is at war with good.


When your ideas are challenged, if you take it personally, you will certainly make changes to your product that will only please you, not to your customers.


I acquired a few (PL skills) as I grow because I ponder on the same too frequently. These are things I tell myself; others’ experiences may vary depending on their industry and employer:

  1. Don’t assume that you are the power or ideal user if you work in technology and have a technical background; instead, be the one to push product design! As mentioned by @VladPodpoly, Trust but Verify your assumptions using VOCs.

  2. Recognize the genuine north star metric for the product! Retention, user experience, simplicity, unique feature/value, new user adoption, etc., are what actually aid in generating income.

  3. Regardless of how familiar or knowledgeable you are with the product, concentrate on growth and allow responsible teams maintain themselves.

  4. If you work for a hardware and software company, your company might wish to boost soft revenue but not support the expansion of that industry. With your leadership, be extremely clear on this.

  5. If you are developing a new software product, give your licensing approach a lot of thought. Basic features, packages, add-ons, trials, expansion in the future, node-locked, floating, enterprise, SaaS, microservices offering, etc.


Agree cent percent to @VladPodpoly.

Sure @RisaButler, Will definitely keep it in mind.

Very True @ChristieDook.

Very valid points @NaomiNwosu. Thanks for taking the time to point these out. Could you please elaborate on Point No. 4, if you don’t mind.


Customers and traditional HW firms are accustomed to receiving “free software with the hardware.” Sales decisions may be made based on software features, but financial rewards are tied to the volume of hardware sales. Businesses yearn for a share of that sweet recurring SaaS revenue, but they fail to recognise (and then sell) a value proposition to underpin their software sales. The sales representatives frequently provided the software gratis in order to close the sale. Anyways. My advice is to avoid falling into the PM trap in this scenario where the business makes a statement but doesn’t stand by it. No money. Unwillingness to wait for the software offering to evolve and launch You’ll spend some time on the cost side. You will be treated like a stepchild in the inner circles while the hardware PMs receive all the attention and career advancement. In order to avoid missing out on career advancement, set realistic expectations and ensure that your firm is aware of the expense, time (and patience) needed to transform the culture to promote software sales.


Most valuable skills are:

  • Time management/efficiency/prioritization
  • Saying “no” (to customers, meetings, requests) but avoiding zero-sum rejection
  • Storytelling/persuasion + critical thinking/inquiry + data/information analysis
  • Having an executive presence

Thank you so much @NaomiNwosu. That was very generous of you to explain it so nicely. Really appreciate.

@RohitKumar, I agree on storytelling/persuasion, so important. It doesn’t mean to go push your ideas through like a bully but have your product vision backed by competitive or market insights.
Presence is so key too. Thoughtful, direct answers.

  1. Patience
  2. Listening
  3. Rapport
  4. Relationship-building

There are sooooo many hard skills/technical skills that can be valuable depending on the situation, but the above list can be incredibly valuable independent of your role, company, responsibilities, and goals. I believe I would have avoided a lot of frustration and unnecessary challenges if I had focused more on these early-on.


Recognize social capital. When you ask someone to do something, even as simple as listen, you frequently expect them to provide you with resources (attention, energy, etc). This implies that you must eventually strike a balance by returning value. Knowing where that balance lies and how to control it might mean the difference between inspiring your team throughout a test and ensuring a successful outcome.

Good performing teams are maintained through high morale and trust.


Understand how to prioritize your personal life among other vital things. Even though a lot of the work that project managers perform is “essential,” if it weren’t done or wasn’t done as well as they frequently try to and spend hours doing, it would practically never be noticed. What matters EOD are relationships and results.

Don’t be good at things you don’t want to do.


How would you define the difference between a PM and a Product Leader?

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Product managers and product leaders perform completely different tasks, similar to many management to leadership professions. In the end, the primary distinction between a product manager and a product leader is that, whereas product managers are responsible for driving product strategy, product leaders are responsible for driving employee performance.

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