As a Product Manager, you will be required to be a leader and a champion of the product that you are responsible for. In practice, most of the time, this means that you will be leading without authority. Leading without authority is a critical skill that needs to be adopted by all Product Managers.

So what does leading without authority entail and why do you need to do it?

Well there are volumes and volumes written on it so this is going to be a brief overview of the most salient points. To be a successful Product Manager, you will have to learn strong leadership skills. Not everyone is born a leader and even those that have a natural flare for it still need to learn the skills that will enable them to deal with most eventualities.

Tips on Leading Without Authority

  • First you have to lead by example. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. What you do is always being watched by someone so everything you do must be beyond reproach and done in a professional manner.
  • You need to make yourself visible. Be seen to be participating in important debates and projects. Do not stay in your office, you need to show your face and be seen as a person that is getting things done and meeting their commitments. One of your main skills in order to bring cross-functional teams together successfully is networking and bridge building with your peers, with senior management and with those below you in the organizational structure.
  • Make sure that you share your knowledge, actively listen to people and take on board what they have to say. Giving and receiving feedback is a very important part of building your integrity and engendering trust. Help other out where you can and ensure that you include others in your projects, discussions and decision-making processes.
  • Make sure that you are at the forefront of problem solving; that you think strategically; and that you reflect upon your actions critically and learn from your experiences. You must demonstrate your striving for excellence and empower others to do the same.
  • And perhaps most important of all be passionate about your product and what you do. Being positive and upbeat is infectious and will engender the same response in others.

You will have to absorb everything you can from the people around you, assimilate it and use the effective techniques.

Your knowledge will have to be constantly updated as well. You can do this by reading articles, reading books, seeking out courses, conferences and workshops to hone your skills. This is definitely a skill that requires continuous improvement through gaining knowledge and experience.

If you are able to you should also find a mentor or coach that you respect. Having someone impartial to discuss your experiences and new concepts with is vitally important.

The role of a product manager is a leadership role, where you have to align people to work towards a vision. Here you find the most useful resources on leadership, both in general and for product managers more specifically.

On Leadership in General

What Makes a Leader? by Daniel Goleman

TED Playlist: How to be a great leader by multiple presenters

A Manager’s Manifesto by Julie Zhuo

3 Steps to Magnetic Leadership by Alan E. Shelton

The Difference Between Good Leaders and Great Ones by James R. Bailey

The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World by Sunnie Giles

5 Leadership Lessons From Mark Zuckerberg and Other Top CEOs by Sydney Finkelstein

Leadership for Product Managers

Debunking Leadership Myths by Roger Cauvin

Anatomy of a Product Leader by Jason Baumgarten and Greg Sedlock

What Makes A Great Product Leader? by Rob Go

10 Leadership Qualities of Successful Product Managers by Roman Pichler

How Product Managers Build Leadership Skills by Brian de Haaff

Applying Leverage as a Product Manager by Brandon Chu

How to Choose the Right Product Management Leadership Styles by Roman Pichler

Tools for developing your leadership skills

Igniter by Innerwill
Tool for determining your personal core values, goals and vision.

Leadership Skills by MindTools
Several assessments to determine your leadership ability and style.

Books about Leadership All Product Managers Should Read

The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
In this book, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup – practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular blog. A classic.

High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove
Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance—throughout, High Output Management is a practical handbook for navigating real-life business scenarios and a powerful management manifesto with the ability to revolutionize the way we work.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Start with Why shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock
From the visionary head of Google’s innovative People Operations comes this groundbreaking inquiry into the philosophy of work-and a blueprint for attracting the most spectacular talent to your business and ensuring that they succeed. WORK RULES! shows how to strike a balance between creativity and structure, leading to success you can measure in quality of life as well as market share. Read it to build a better company from within rather than from above and to reawaken your joy in what you do.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
From the author of Start with Why, comes this book which also has become a bestseller. In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why? Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL. His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty. In the process, he changed the way football is played. Bill Walsh taught that the requirements of successful leadership are the same whether you run an NFL franchise, a fortune 500 company, or a hardware store with 12 employees. These words of ‘wisdom by Walsh’ will inspire, inform, and enlighten leaders in all professions.

Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders by Jurgen Appelo
In many organizations, management is the biggest obstacle to successful Agile development. Unfortunately, reliable guidance on Agile management has been scarce indeed. Now, leading Agile manager Jurgen Appelo fills that gap, introducing a realistic approach to leading, managing, and growing your Agile team or organization. Appelo’s Management 3.0 model recognizes that today’s organizations are living, networked systems; and that management is primarily about people and relationships.