Leadership Essentials: What Makes a Great Product Leader

Oct 4, 2023

Product & User Sense

One of the fundamental traits of a great product leader is their ability to think in terms of products. They have a deep understanding of the difference between a project and a product. They can define concrete, coherent products with high business potential. They have a holistic, strategic view of what the right product might be for a given problem space. Successful product leaders can identify riskier assumptions and know how to test and adapt them. They define success with clarity and set measurement frameworks to execute in an agile fashion. Good product sense also requires the ability to think from a user's perspective. Successful product leaders demonstrate a user mentality and use empathy to understand user problems, customer needs, and stakeholder expectations.

Innovation Mindset

Great product leaders understand the value of innovation for product development. They establish processes that foster idea sharing, collaboration, creativity, and experimentation. They embrace failure as part of the innovation process and encourage their team to take risks and learn from them. Innovation practices and tools such as design thinking, design sprints, and rapid prototyping are essential for effective product leadership.

Entrepreneurial Thinking

Product leaders possess an entrepreneurial mindset. They are enthusiastic about designing and building products that solve big problems and create value. They are driven by impact and innovation while staying connected to reality through clear objectives and strategic insights. Balancing user needs, business potential, and available resources is crucial for successful product leadership.

Cross-domain Knowledge

Modern digital products are complex and require a multidisciplinary approach. Product leaders collaborate with designers, engineers, data scientists, marketers, and commercialization experts. They understand the language, perspective, and capabilities of each domain and leverage their knowledge to drive user engagement, value creation, and monetization. A strong technical background is advantageous for product leaders as it enables them to make informed decisions and understand the limitations and opportunities presented by emerging technologies.

Commercial Acumen

Product leaders have a keen understanding of the commercial aspects of product development. They identify the right business models, monetization strategies, pricing structures, and growth mechanisms for their products. They scan the ecosystem for competitors, partners, and potential synergies to ensure the viability and success of their products.

Data-Driven, but with Sound Judgment

Data plays a vital role in product development. Product leaders identify the right sources and classes of data to improve decision-making processes. They interpret data in the right context, synthesize insights, and make informed product decisions. However, they also recognize the limitations of data and know when to rely on sound judgment and strategic insights, especially in ambiguous situations.

Ability to Execute, Readiness to Pivot

Great product leaders not only define great products but also drive their execution. They set clear roadmaps, inspire their teams, and make the product vision a reality. They are agile and ready to pivot when necessary, making tough decisions and adapting the product strategy to changing market conditions.

Ability to Streamline Product Innovation

Product leaders establish efficient processes and methodologies to accelerate and streamline product development. They leverage methods, techniques, systems, and tools to facilitate fast execution, continuous discovery of high-potential ideas, and smooth adaptation of the product based on insights and real-time information.

Passion for Product and People

Passion is a crucial characteristic of great product leaders. They believe in their products and are invested in their success. They recognize great ideas and products, even if they are not products they would personally use. They prioritize the user journey and put the user at the center of everything they do. They also have a people-centric approach, building high-performing teams, nurturing talent, and providing a clear progression pathway for their team members.


Great product leaders possess a unique combination of skills, traits, and knowledge. They think strategically, understand the business landscape, and have a deep empathy for users. They foster innovation, streamline product development processes, and possess an entrepreneurial mindset. They are data-driven yet rely on sound judgment in ambiguous situations. Above all, they have a passion for their products and the people they work with. By embodying these qualities, product leaders can drive innovation, inspire their teams, and deliver exceptional products that make a real impact in the market. Check out our Product Strategy and Leadership course to learn more!

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