6 Traits that are common between a Product Manager and CEO

Discussion between a Product Manager and a CEO

Product Managers are often called the CEOs of Product. Amit Somani, Partner, Prime Ventures outlines 6 traits that are common to both these roles in his talk on “Product Manager as a CEO. To be or not to be?” at the Product Leadership Festival 2021 organized by the Institute of Product Leadership (IPL).

Here are 6 traits shared by good Product managers and CEO

  • Ability to know how much money, resources, time & effort on a given problem to solve and deploy that
  • Make few high impact decisions in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty
  • They both are problem solvers & doers. They have high agency. i.e find a way to get stuff done
  • Ability to balance macro industry trends with what you need as a company to be able to leverage that
  • They continuously strive at mastering the art of storytelling
  • Adept at managing complex web of relationships in the ecosystem

Lets understand these traits in a bit more detail

1. Capital Allocators

The first common trait & responsibility is capital deployment. And capital not just building a plant or buying some AWS credits or Microsoft Credits etc., but it is about what problems should you tackle? How much money should you deploy on that problem? What are the resources you need to deploy on that? The best CEOs and the best product managers know how much money, how much resources, how much bandwidth to put on what problem.

2. Decision Makers

One of the most common skill sets between two roles is decision making. A CEO’s entire job is to make decisions. If you look at and hear Jeff Bezos of Amazon talk, he often says that his only job is to make great decisions. And even if he makes one great decision a day, the company is going to be fine till 2030.

And likewise with product managers, decision making in the face of ambiguity, in the face of uncertainty is a very critical skill or trade.

3. Problem Solvers & Doers

You’ll always have things that won’t be enough. The market conditions are not right. The engineers have not delivered the software. Timing is not happening. Something happened with COVID. GTM has changed. Whatever it might be both great Product managers and great CEOs have very high agency. They find a way to get stuff done. They are problem solvers. They are doers. They’re not debaters and discussers. They’re pretty action oriented.

4. Zoom-in & Zoom-out

There’s a whole bunch of macro trends that are happening in the industry. For example, there’s a lot of talk about driverless cars. Companies like Uber, Grab, Gojek, Ola have revolutionized mobility. People are not talking about driverless cars doing that. Now that is a major shift and a macro trend. It is going to have a micro level impact on what products, what technologies, what software, what features, et cetera, you need to build.

If you’re an entrepreneur, what companies do you need to build to be able to address that. So you need to be able to balance trends. PMs are a little clairvoyant and forward looking gazing at the Crystal ball and so are CEOs.

5. Communication Skills

This is an obvious one. You have to be an excellent communicator. Written, verbal, inspirational and empathetic.

6. Ecosystem Managers

Both of them need to manage a complex web of relationships. It’s not just you and the product or you and the engineering head you and the sales leader. There’s a bunch of different moving pieces and you need to get them to align together by being an ecosystem manager.

Watch the short video on this topic:

About the Author

Amit Somani

Amit Somani is Ex-Chief Product Officer for MakeMyTrip and currently a Managing Partner at Prime Venture Partners, an early-stage VC firm based out of Bangalore. Prime is currently investing out of its 3rd fund of US $70M (INR 500Cr) and is focused on investing in disruptive product companies out of India, with a particular focus on Fintech & SaaS.
More about Amit and his other talks with the Institute of Product leadership can be found here.


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