Institute of Product Leadership
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Leadership as a Product Manager

By Parul Goel – Director of Product Management at

In this blog, we will explore the key roles and mindset shifts required to be an effective leader in this role. We will also discuss the journey of a product manager and how to break into this field. Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

  • Product managers are leaders, not just builders. They need to invest in the success of their product, take ownership, and guide their team.
  • Effective product managers act as business owners, orchestra conductors, and guardians of their time.
  • Care for the product end-to-end, be aware of its life cycle, and hold others accountable. Transition from a builder to an owner for greater impact.
  • Communicate the vision and priorities, ensure team alignment, and build relationships with key members. Proactive communication and connection are essential.
  • Fiercely protect time for high-value work, prioritise tasks, block time on your calendar, and eliminate distractions. Structure your schedule for better results.
In this article
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    The Importance of Leadership

    As a product manager, regardless of your level, you are a leader. You are responsible for a cross-functional team and the success of your product. It is crucial to show up as an effective leader to gain the trust and guidance of your team. 

    The Three Roles of a Product Manager

    Parul explains that to be an effective leader as a product manager, you must take on three key roles: a business owner, an orchestra conductor, and a guardian of your time and calendar. Let’s explore each role in detail.

    1. Business Owner

    As a product manager, you must treat your product like your own business. Parul encourages product managers to invest in the success of their product, take responsibility for its end-to-end success, and care about the success of other roles involved in the product’s development. By adopting this ownership mindset, product managers can increase their influence and drive the success of their product.

    Behaviours of a Business Owner:

      • Care about your product end-to-end
      • Be plugged in and aware of the entire product life cycle
      • Hold people accountable for their responsibilities

    Parul shares her own experience of transitioning from a builder mindset to a business owner mindset. By taking ownership of the end-to-end success of her product, she was able to have a greater impact and gain the trust of her leadership. She advises product managers to adopt this ownership mindset to show up as effective leaders.

    2. Orchestra Conductor

    As a product manager, you are responsible for unifying your cross-functional team and ensuring alignment. Parul emphasises the importance of communication and alignment within the team to avoid misunderstandings and delays. By acting as an orchestra conductor, product managers can ensure that all team members are working towards the same goal and have the necessary information to succeed.

    Behaviours of an Orchestra Conductor:

      • Communicate the big picture and priorities
      • Be plugged in and aware of the progress and challenges of each team member
      • Build relationships and influence key influencers within the team

    Parul shares her own experience of leading a team and the challenges she faced in ensuring alignment. By being proactive in communication and building relationships, product managers can successfully act as orchestra conductors and drive the success of their teams.

    3. Guardian of Time and Calendar

    Product managers often face the challenge of being pulled in many directions and dealing with constant distractions. Parul advises product managers to guard their time and calendar fiercely to ensure they have dedicated focus time for high-value work. By blocking time on their calendar and eliminating distractions, product managers can prioritise their work and make significant progress.

    Behaviours of a Guardian of Time and Calendar:

      • Define and prioritise your work
      • Block time on your calendar for high-value work
      • Avoid distractions and focus on your priorities

    Parul shares her own transformation from a chaotic schedule to a structured approach. By defining priorities, blocking time on her calendar, and eliminating distractions, she was able to accomplish more and make a greater impact. She encourages product managers to take control of their time and calendar to achieve their goals.


    In conclusion, effective leadership is crucial for product managers to drive the success of their products. By adopting the roles of a business owner, an orchestra conductor, and a guardian of time and calendar, product managers can show up as effective leaders and make a significant impact. Parul’s insights and experiences serve as a valuable guide for aspiring and current product managers. Remember to take ownership, unify your team, and guard your time to excel as a product manager.

    About the Author:

    Parul Goel  – Director of Product Management at

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Transitioning to product leadership involves gaining experience in product management, honing leadership skills, and showcasing a track record of successful product outcomes. Start by excelling in product management roles, taking on leadership responsibilities, and seeking mentorship from established product leaders.

    To transition to a product management role, focus on acquiring relevant skills such as market research, user experience design, and strategic thinking. Tailor your resume to highlight transferable skills and consider obtaining certifications in product management. Networking with professionals in the field and seeking informational interviews can also open doors to opportunities.

    Moving into product leadership involves demonstrating a deep understanding of product management, showcasing leadership qualities, and taking on roles with increasing responsibilities. Seek out leadership opportunities within your current organization, mentor junior team members, and stay updated on industry trends to position yourself as a valuable asset for leadership roles.

    Yes, product management is inherently a leadership role. Product managers are responsible for guiding the development and success of a product, which involves making strategic decisions, collaborating with cross-functional teams, and aligning efforts towards a common vision. Effective product managers exhibit strong leadership skills to drive innovation and achieve business objectives.

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