Tasks and priorities between product manager and product leader differ significantly. For the same reason it is essential to pay attention to different hiring criteria while choosing a leader. The following checklist should help you with that:
The right time for a leader
Ideally, the product-market fit should have been proven and company growth should be imminent. This is not only a good timing, but also offers two valid reasons to motivate suitable candidates to accept your offering.
Basic technical skills
The following technical skills can be completed or adapted with specific requirements for the product, market, and organization:
- Is able to develop and take responsibility for the product vision and strategy.
- Has the necessary methodological competence to ensure that effective discoveries are carried out and the right decisions are made.
- Ensures that results orientation is always more important than process orientation.
- Is generally very good at solving problems.
- Is analytical, creative, and decisive.
- Has a solid understanding of technology. For technical products, an appropriate education or a very deep understanding should be proven.
- Can demonstrate great collaboration capabilities with creative and technical roles.
- Has great communication skills and is able to negotiate and convince at a high level.
- Can explain business models, pricing, and marketing measures. Can explain the core value creation or the unique selling proposition of a company.
- Has a good market overview, can clearly describe target groups, has customer contact and works data-driven and not assumption-based (e.g. with focus groups, A/B tests, etc.).
- Has — depending on the job profile — experience with certain product categories and/or product lifecycle phases.
Basic leadership skills
Depending on the size of the team and the complexity of the leadership, the following leadership skills are added:
- Is able to build strong and independent teams and make them successful through personal coaching.
- Is an optimistic, winning personality.
- Has a cultural fit and a similar value model as the management team of the future company. Knows that culture can be used as a basis for process simplification and flat organizations.
- Has demonstrated a collaborative personality.
- Has already successfully hired, managed, or possibly even dismissed employees. Shows good people judgment.
- Shows a drive to tackle things in a focused, uncomplicated, and success-oriented way.
- Has sufficient knowledge for the respective level of company policy that is required for this position.
The necessary experience and skill level
Depending on the level of responsibility of the position (Team Lead, Head- Of, CPO), some or all of the following skill levels should be demonstrated:
- Can demonstrate a track record in building or developing products. The own responsibility while doing this can be convincingly demonstrated.
- Has built up or significantly developed or scaled one or several teams. Can name examples of critical situations in leadership and management of own managed teams.
- Has already worked on the creation of a company vision and strategy. May have co-founded a company.
- Is an market expert and has made a significant contribution to the development of the industry or at least has been able to develop very relevant and successful products in this industry.
Motivation and working conditions
After clarifying the ability to cope with the leading role, there are two further critical questions:
- How big is the motivation? What drivers feed the motivation? Are those long-term drivers?
- Do the candidates have simple or challenging conditions for executing this position? Are there expected burdens or limiting factors to be able to do this demanding work?
Take this catalog to create requirements and suitable questions for the personal interview session.
In addition, there are experienced interim managers or consultants who are able to guide you in identifying suitable candidates. Good luck.