I’ve always been a big believer in the adage that employees join a company but they leave a manager. This applies to product managers as much as anyone. Our manager is a major factor in our job satisfaction. For those of us that are also managers, we need to always keep in mind the role we play in the effectiveness and enthusiasm of our employees.

Many of you have seen my lists of characteristics of great product managers, but I thought I’d share my list of characteristics of great product leaders. This pertains to group product managers, directors of product management, and VP of product or marketing, although I think this list applies to virtually every management position in a high-tech company.

Managers can hopefully use this list as a self-assessment tool. Those that aren’t yet managers can hopefully benefit from a set of characteristics to work towards.

So here’s my list of characteristics and behaviors of great product leaders:

– Unquestioned dedication to the goal of creating a great product and great user experience

– Always maintains a positive attitude – never loses cool, never gives up

– Actively fosters a creative, fun work environment

– Listens sincerely, speaks thoughtfully

– Criticizes privately and constructively, praises publicly and generously

– Is completely dependable – does what he says he will when he says will

– Keeps his manager informed and included to whatever degree his manager desires

– Brings the whole management team along on major decisions

– Proactively raises issues to his manager – no negative surprises

– Discusses problems with manager discreetly and constructively

– On controversial issues, he expresses his opinions honestly and constructively, but once decision is made he’s fully on-board

– Hires great people and develops them – builds great teams and cares about every employee’s career

– Quick to take blame if something goes wrong, but credits others when things go well

– Dedicated to self-improvement – when mistakes are made, he considers what he could have done differently

– Never gossips or complains about manager or co-workers – treats every employee with respect

– Always demonstrates profound respect for the customer

– Considers both longer-term strategic issues as well as immediate execution and tactical issues

– Personifies the company’s values through words and deeds

– Always working to build a great company – considers the long-term value of the company in every decision and communication

I should admit that while I use this list for myself, I do not always follow all of these items as closely as I wish I did. But I do frequently review this list and I think it helps me be a better manager and product leader. I have known and worked for some outstanding product leaders, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there that’s perfect all the time. But in my experience the best ones are always working to improve.

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