Top 7 Experiences Needed as a Product Leader

I have been thinking about this a lot. We are all aware of the experiences and skills a Product Owner/Product Manager needs. But a Product Leader needs more than those “horizontal skills” to succeed in his or her organization. Here come the ones SPLSG believes are the most important:

Top 7 Experiences needes as a Product Leader
  • Large Organization – A Product Leader needs to navigate in large structures. Typically matrix organizations and very senior stakeholders are something that requires personal experience.
  • Large Team – Managing 3-5 Product Managers is relatively easy. But what happens if you are responsible for larger teams? If there is a hierarchical layer between you and your (practitioner) Product Managers? Not to forget: The Engineering Team also becomes quite large. Very quickly a Product Leader needs to steer 50-100 Engineers. You will need a personal leadership experience of that size to succeed.
  • Business & Market Acumen – You need to have a commercial drive to customers and how go-to-market works. As a Product Leader, you cannot leave this to others. You need to actively contribute & challenge your peers and the CEO.
  • Strategy/(Business Model) Innovation – Building features and only looking a couple of months ahead will make your company fail sooner or later. You need to be able to conceive a future, describe it to your organization. You should have done this a couple of times already.
  • Stakeholder Management/Evangelization – Perhaps the most important one. You need to not only sell your product but also influence the decision making of your stakeholders. Beware the stakeholders of a Product Manager are not automatically the same as the Product Leader’s. You will need many years of stakeholder experience on a senior level to succeed.
  • Processes/Organization/Product Development – This is the “bread and butter” of a Product Leader. No shortcuts, no excuses. Organize & deliver – together with your Tech counterparts.
  • Agility/Entrepreneurship – Build-measure-learn is the mantra. But not only on practitioner level, but also on an organizational level. How to be agile/entrepreneurial in a context that is built for a predictable future? If you have never have seen this from inside out, you will have difficulties. But if you aren’t having this as a strong driver, you won’t be passionate enough to make it happen.

So, how many boxes do you tick as a Product Leader? Is there something important missing in this list? Please comment – We are looking forward to your thoughts!

Do you use OKRs in Your Company? – Vote Now!

Do OKRs hit the target or not?

In preparation of our Product Leader Roundtable in Berlin on 16/09/2019 focusing on OKRs, we are looking forward to understanding better how widespread this framework is. Please help us by voting below. Thank you!

[yop_poll id=”3″]

OKRs – Hype or a fundamentally new approach?

Objectives and key results (OKRs) are being discussed everywhere. Obviously, they are helpful to align the direction of the company across different teams. But does this make them fundamentally new?

Origins

OKRs showing the way for organizations?

You should be aware that they have first been mentioned already back in 1975 (read more here). Everyone who has some business education will know “Management by Objectives (MbO)”. We would argue that the framework is anything but new. Nevertheless, the fact that today it has become fashionable to implement OKRs in organizations is new. Above all, there seems to be an imminent need to align not only Product and IT, but also strategy and execution, business and product, product and marketing, etc.

Organizational Starting Point

Let’s take a look at the starting point. Organizational silo structures have made it increasingly difficult to have a competitive advantage over others. In a world where customer demands are getting more and more sophisticated, it is vital to be organisationally effective and efficient. At the same time, defining, designing, building and operating products requires an aligned approach. This cannot be planned like a waterfall project. The big word is “agility”. Most importantly, being able to ad hoc react to new insights and the ability to change direction whenever necessary. In a world where this matters most, a product leader needs to stand up. It all boils down to the ability to influence and to lead people into the desired direction. SPLSG have named those skills “horizontal skills.” Based on product management expertise, the responsibility of a product manager is ever-broadening.

Focus areas of SPLSG - graphical overview
Horizontal vs. vertical skills of a Product Manager

OKRs might be a good framework. But without the overarching skills and without the mandate to lead, the implementation will simply end in a mess.

Get to know more

Discuss this topic more! We would recommend our next Product Leader Roundtable on September 14th in Berlin. It is fully dedicated to the topic “OKRs for Product Leaders.” Secure your tickets here.

Best Summer Ever?

Welcome back!

How was your summer? Slowly, but surely people are coming back to their desks. So have we @SPLSG 🙂

We are super-excited that tickets for our Roundtable event on September 16th in Berlin are selling fast. The focus will be on OKRs for product leaders. Learn more here.

Other than that, it might be worth mentioning that our initiator & founding partner Jörg Malang will be in Berlin September 17th-19th. Feel free to schedule some time with him here.

Speak soon!

Summer Break for SPLSG

Summer break @SPLSG

Thank you to all our supporters and members since our initial launch in February 2019. It has been an interesting ride. We have had our first Product Leader Roundtable Event in Berlin and countless interactions with our members and product leaders who are interested in strengthening the still young discipline of (true) product leadership.

Now it is time to have a break! Enjoy summer and we are looking forward to resuming our activities in August/September.

All the best,

Elaine & Jörg

Networking in Berlin – Not only for SPLSG

Berlin SPLSG
Berlin, we are coming…

Getting to know SPLSG for Product Leaders (casual setting in Biergarten)

Thursday, Jul 4, 2019, 7:00 PM

13 SPLSG Associates Attending

Check out this Meetup →

Our SPLSG initiator & founding partner Jörg Malang will be in Berlin 02/07/ – 05/07/2019 to meet some product leaders and other people interested in catching up. One of the highlights will definitely also be the SPLSG “Biergarten” Event on July 4th.

In case you are interested in meeting Jörg next week, please feel free to schedule a time via Calendly. Looking forward to it!

Getting Advice from Product Leaders – Relaxed Listening during your Summer Holidays

William Gill


Holger Kretzschmar










Wolfgang Tittmann



Jennifer Wong



Giulia Nobile

Time for a New Breed of Product Leaders

Wave after wave of new Heads of Product coming & leaving…

Something is going on. When you read job ads for “Head of Product”, not only “customer understanding”, “understanding of technology” and “know how to work in an agile environment” show up as requirements. Increasingly things such as “coach and mentor our Product and UX teams to deliver their maximum potential” are there as well. In my interpretation, I would read that leadership capabilities are becoming increasingly important in the product management space. As long as pieces of advice to Heads of Product like “you need to coach your product managers 1:1” is sold like the hottest thing on earth, we haven’t reached a desirable level of maturity in the product management discipline.

I would see this as a good signal. Many product managers ended up in a leadership role in their organizations – and failed. They weren’t able to assess and develop the members of their staff. This is a sign of a bubble happening as we speak – too many people too early in leadership roles. There are Head of Product & VP Product roles in Berlin that are open for weeks and weeks. It is hard to find the right person. And organizations are increasingly hesitant to promote their existing product managers into leadership roles. The new breed of product leaders will have understood the importance of leadership capabilities. They will combine their product management expertise with a wealth of tools and personal experience to create value as a leader. There is no shortcut to this slow growth. To close this post, I would like to familiarize you with the Peter Principle in case you aren’t aware of it yet. It is from 1969. And more valid than ever – especially in the product management function, I am afraid…