Institute of Product Leadership
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A Product Manager is the Jon Snow of modern-day enterprises. Here are 4 Compelling Reasons Why.

In a world of grey characters, Jon Snow is closest to being a hero in the Game of Thrones, the iconic TV series. The TV (or torrent) viewing world waited with bated breath through the show’s hiatus to know if he survived last year’s attack or not. He’s now edging, agonizing inch by inch, towards victory over the bad guys and perhaps even the Iron Throne.

Strikingly, a good Product Manager in a modern-day company has to display many of the same traits that Jon Snow embodies. Here are some.

1. Putting the larger cause before self - A Product Manager often belongs to all teams and no team. Many of the tasks on her plate may involve giving the little pushes and nudges to different groups keeping the overall product excellence in mind. Frankly, there is no task related to the product that the product manager can say no to - whether it is rolling up her sleeves to do some coding or QA, hitting the road for customer interviews, working with PR guys on a press release, or burning the midnight oil to write a killer blog post. Akin to Jon Snow, who wore black and guarded the North Wall (performing menial tasks along the way) as a member of the monastic Night’s Watch, despite being a member of a noble family. The larger cause - product success - is paramount.

2. Influence without authority - In the same vein, a Product Manager must develop the network and capacity to influence people in different teams - business, development, operations, vendors or higher management - without having any direct authority over any of them. This requires a mixture of communication skills and executive presence, as well as a thick skin that can keeping working towards a “yes” despite many “no”s.

Influencing Without Authority At the Wall

Jon Snow did a lot of this with the Wildlings and his own men, as he negotiated and battled his way through various adversities over the last few seasons. Perhaps his toughest negotiations were during the last few episodes in the current season - working from a position of weakness, parlaying with various families of the North - including one headed by a precocious pre-teen - as he built an army to fight Ramsay Bolton and take back his family home.

3. The ability to influence a person or team towards product success can be of immense value. The only person with the big picture in mind - What does the dev team want? To push out superb modules, without bugs. What does the QA team want? To flesh out bugs, churn out test scripts and scenarios and keep scrubbing away. Business wants to win more customers, management wants a healthier bottom line. Every group has its own priorities and agendas. But the Product Manager has a single point agenda - to make the product succeed. It is her job to hustle all the teams into a coherent whole and make them contribute towards this agenda.

Jon Snow has been doing this admirably the last few seasons, as he builds an army of diverse tribes that were formerly enemies - to fight together for a common cause.

Only one who sees the big picture can push for it to become reality.

4. The ability to be “born again” - A great product manager is not defined by having all her products succeed. Rather, a great one is able to rise from the ashes of product failure to move on to the next one. The law of averages will catch up with the world’s best product manager and she will taste failure sooner or later. Recall Steve Jobs’ Lisa or the PowerMac G4 cube just to name a couple of this iconic leader’s failures.

One Year of Is He Dead or Not? Product Managers Must Similarly Learn to Recover from Product Failures

On the subject of Jon Snow and being born again, enough has been said in media and among fans!

The Product Manager is the Jon Snow of the product world. Many of this tribe will go on to become the Kings of their Iron Thrones and win the game. May their tribe increase!


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