How to step up your career prospects for a leadership position in product management

You become a problem solver

Senior management have enough challenges that they need to take care of. They need leaders who are able to solve the problems in their field autonomously . If you want to recommend yourself for a management position, it’s best to show this competence already as an employee. Even without a promotion, this will immediately make you more valuable.

To solve problems, you have to recognize them, analyze them, make decisions yourself and inform about them. Just recognizing, mentioning and reporting is not enough. For decisions with major implications, you should plan for a decision proposal meeting with the relevant stakeholders.

It is a proactive process controlled by you. However, this approach only works if you are able to gather all relevant information, analyze them correctly and ensure that your solution is good enough to be accepted by your superiors. In order to avoid investing too much time for that, you also need profound knowledge and advanced problem solving skills.

You have great communication and negotiation skills

In a leadership position, you are expected to be able to adapt your communication to diverse situations and be able to motivate employees and stakeholders to contribute to given goals. You are expected to belong to the group of employees who are able to make themselves heard in difficult situations, who do not get undercut in arguments, and who are still respected in the end.

You represent what the leadership values

Every company has a culture that is shaped by its leadership. Particular achievements are accomplished in a typical way that underlies the company’s culture. In some companies it’ s the performance will, in others it’ s competence, hands-on mentality or some other type. If you as an employee represent this type in particular, people will consciously or unconsciously prefer you as a leader, because you naturally ensure that the prevailing culture remains intact.

You are available and flexible

For ethical and legal reasons, this topic is rarely discussed, but among leaders, availability and flexibility are considered important. From a management perspective, it is clear why: with increasing responsibility, it becomes critical not to be able to deal with urgent problems or potentials due to unavailability. In addition, many tasks in leadership cannot be delegated to employees or other managers. If this happens in many places or across more than one level, problems quickly accumulate to undesirable proportions. It is therefore not so much an old-fashioned work ethic as the understandable need for risk minimization and properly controlled work processes that lead up to this.

Individually, this may be unfair, as your good work ethic is not the only thing that matters. Physical and mental resilience are mainly innate and family situations like to arise unplanned. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that it would be better if you were available and ready to take action when there is a real problem in your leadership area. The confidence that people have in your ability to do this can only be determined by the behavior that you are already displaying as an employee.

You are seen and respected

Being popular is great, but not a necessity. However, if you are not seen by management or are not well regarded, it will be difficult or impossible to make the step into a management position.

And so, should you not be confident enough or a misunderstood genius, it’s time to turn that around in order to be considered as a leader. Good work must be seen in order to be valued.

You have enough experience and leadership skills

To be able to lead others, you need to have methodical skills and experience. If you are already one of the most experienced members of the team, professional maturity is probably sufficient, but not the only important competence. As a leader, your most important task is to make your employees successful, which ultimately makes yourself successful. So you don’t necessarily have to be the best in your field, but the best possible leader within your field.

If you already support others in your current role and if your thinking is holistic and unselfish, then it is reasonable to believe that these skills will also benefit you as a leader.

Colleagues who are regularly cynical, hoard knowledge, act selfishly or have no “reserves” if something goes wrong are less likely to be considered.

You are decisive and strategic

As a leader, you need to be comfortable with making decisions. Good decisions can be made if you are analytical, creative and not risk-averse. This allows you to process information quickly, make the right deductions and consider the widest possible range of solutions. You also don’t let risk get in the way of making decisions quickly enough.

You can show these skills in your today’s discovery work and especially in product strategy.

You do not have to be perfect

The amount of requirements mentioned here put you off? Don’t worry, nobody fulfills all of them entirely and you can still grow and develop yourself. As a hint: it has been proven that working on already existing strengths is more promising than trying to compensate for your weaknesses.

Be successful in doing so.

This article was first published by Traian Kaiser on Medium




Experienced Product Leader supporting aspiring and new-baked product leaders to succeed in action.

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Traian Kaiser

Traian Kaiser

Experienced Product Leader supporting aspiring and new-baked product leaders to succeed in action.

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