What is product leadership? (Plus main responsibilities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A product leader guides a team to create and maintain a product that meets the customers' needs. This involves working with their team to understand what their customers need, develop solutions for these needs and communicate these solutions to the customers. Learning what product leaders do can help you determine whether this career aligns with your interests. In this article, we explain what product leadership is, outline why individuals choose to become a product leader, list a product leader's responsibilities and discuss why product leaders are crucial for businesses.

What product leadership?

Product leadership is a role given to a professional who manages a product and oversees its development. These individuals determine the product's vision, its development process and its features. To work in this role, it's necessary for them to have an understanding of the industry they operate in and their employer's goals so they can appropriately manage a product. This means that it's necessary to understand what customers want from the product and why they want it. They're also required to know how crucial certain features are for the product to succeed.

Related: How to create product plans (with steps and best practices)

Why become a product leader?

Working as a product leader is a highly rewarding career path. Product leaders are the driving force behind new products, services and features. They're responsible for making sure the products they build are valuable to the customers who use them and that they meet the business's needs.

Product leaders have a lot of responsibility, but they also have the freedom to choose what they want to work on and how they want to approach their job. A product leader has many options when it comes to setting priorities and developing new ideas that companies can sell to make a profit.

Related: How to choose a career path

What does a product leader do?

Some of a product leader's main responsibilities include:

Managing the product's vision, strategy and roadmap

A product leader is responsible for managing a product's vision, strategy and roadmap. It's their job to make sure the product has a clear direction. To do this, they determine their employer's goals for the product, as this helps them identify where they're making the product, who it's meant for and what customers need. Then, they set up metrics for measuring the product's success and failure. This lets them know if they're successfully meeting the product's goals or if changes are necessary. The result of this is a roadmap of the steps required for achieving these goals.

Related: What is business roadmapping? (Definition and tips)

Creating the product's strategy and tactics

Additionally, a product leader creates the product's strategy and implements a variety of tactics to meet the business's goals for the product. For example, they use data from customer feedback, surveys and other sources to determine the features that customers want to see in the product's next version. They also use their own experience as the product's user to ensure it aligns with the customers' needs. With these strategies identified, they translate this into concrete tactics that help the team achieve the product's goals. These may include things like updating existing features based on customer feedback.

Related: What is product strategy in marketing? (How to create one)

Defining the target audience and their needs

Defining the target audience and their needs is a critical part of creating a successful product. If a product leader is unable to identify who their customers are, they may find it challenging to create something they're going to buy. This means that it's necessary for the product leader to identify their audience's demographics, including the audience's age, gender and income level, in addition to their personality traits.

To do this, they speak with people who fit into the product's target demographic. This involves asking them questions about their experiences in using the product, in addition to similar products from other brands, as this gives them insight into what motivates consumers.

Related: What is a target audience? (And how to identify one)

Ensuring the product's development aligns with the company's mission and values

A product leader also ensures the product's development aligns with the company's mission and values by making sure their team is aware of these values. They do this by regularly communicating these values to team members and asking them to share their own experiences with the product in meetings. This also encourages the team members to share ideas and provide constructive feedback. Additionally, this helps to motivate team members to achieve the organisation's goals, as they feel like they share the same values as their employer.

Related: Why a mission statement is important: uses and examples

Identifying stakeholders in the product's development process

Product leaders identify the stakeholders in the product's development process by considering all the people who have a vested interest in the project's outcome. In a business-to-consumer (B2C) context, this includes marketing professionals, salespeople and product managers. These stakeholders may have different needs or perspectives on the product's end goal, which help to diversify the product. In a business-to-business (B2B) context, this includes the external partners or vendors involved with creating and distributing the products. The needs of these stakeholders may also vary depending on their role in the process and what they want out of it.

Related: Exploring the role of stakeholders, with various examples

Developing a strong product culture

Moreover, a product leader is responsible for developing a strong and positive product culture. They do this by communicating how the company operates, the standards they expect employees to meet and exceed and the values they want to see reflected in customer interactions. Product leaders have a lot of opportunities to create a positive culture around their products, as they communicate directly with customers, employees and investors. They also have significant influence over hiring practices, which means they create an environment that attracts people who share their values.

Setting metrics and KPIs for their team to track progress

A product leader often starts the product development process by defining the metrics and KPIs that are crucial for a specific project. It's necessary for these metrics and KPIs to be both measurable and easy to understand, as this often ensures their relevance to the project's success. The product leader then creates a plan for regularly collecting data from these metrics and KPIs. This includes setting up systems, like email alerts or automated reports, which help them see when something needs attention so they fix any problems without much disruption. Then, they monitor this progress to ensure the project's success.

Working with engineering departments to build new features and products

Product leaders are responsible for overseeing the development of new products and features. This role involves a lot of communication with engineers, who are responsible for making sure the products work as intended. To do this, it's necessary for product leaders to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies so they can communicate effectively with engineers about aspects they want to include. It's also necessary for them to have an understanding of how to prioritise features. This enables them to give clear instructions to the engineers about specific non-negotiable features and ones they can potentially include if there's room for them.

Ensuring their team has the necessary tools for success

A product leader ensures their team has the necessary tools for success. This involves anticipating the team's future needs so they can prepare for anything they may encounter during the product's development. By giving their team the resources they need, the product leader is ensuring they can perform at their best and meet the project's deadlines. One way a product leader can do this is by communicating with their team and asking them what they think they require to complete the project. For example, they may ask for a certain software package to help with the product's development.

Commissioning content that educates customers on new products

One of the most crucial things that a product leader can do is educate customers on new products and how they fit into their lives. To commission content that does this, it's vital for a product leader to understand what's necessary for customers to know about the product. The goal is to ensure customers understand how to use the product, why they'd use it and how they can use it in conjunction with other products they already use. Product leaders commission content through social media posts, articles, blogs and infographics. They also commission video content.

Why are product leaders crucial for businesses?

Product leaders are crucial for businesses because they provide leadership, vision and direction to their teams and the company as a whole. They're responsible for communicating their employer's mission, vision and values to their team and external stakeholders. This is critical as they often liaise with stakeholders to secure the necessary funds for the product to progress. They also serve as an advocate for the customer and ensure the products are specifically designed with them in mind. To succeed in this role, product leaders have an excellent understanding of all aspects of product development, alongside the ability to communicate effectively.

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