I have known great leaders who light brilliant paths but are less strong in encouraging follow-through. Others, meanwhile, are superb in creating a strong principle-based leadership culture but less overt in communicating the vision. The best leaders are those who have simplified it down to relationships. When that occurs, grace for the leader’s failings are given as much as grace for the minor failings of employees.

The quote is from Jeremie Kubicek’s book ‘Leadership is Dead’.  I received a copy not too long ago and have finally gotten around to working my way through it.  The essence of the book focuses on influence, and as the quote alludes to … relationships.  And I would argue that our success or failure as product management leaders can also be simplified down to relationships.  

Early in my career, I came across the following and it has guided me well over the years …

  • You will never lead people until you know them …
  • You won’t know them until they reveal themselves to you …
  • They won’t reveal themselves until they trust you …
  • They won’t trust you until they know you …
  • They won’t know you unless you are open with them …
  • You can’t be open with them unless you are open with yourself!

While your expertise in various disciplines, industries, or technologies are important, and will lend themselves nicely towards your role as a product management leader, it is ultimately your people skills that create the separation from good to great leadership. Take some time to ask yourself about the relationship you have with your key stakeholders. Who are your executive champions (not necessarily your boss), and what are their thoughts about your product? How is your sales team feeling about the value the solution is providing? Have you allowed them to voice their frustrations lately? What about your engineering team? Have you taken the time to thank them for the milestones/deliverables they have worked tirelessly to achieve? Are there others within the organization where relationships need to be mended? Can you realistically succeed without mending those relationships?

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