When you go through a technical product manager job description or any product manager description, for that matter, leadership features at the top of the “wanted” skills. It becomes clear that the coveted position of a product manager calls for leadership abilities as a product manager will be in leading various teams to reach the collective goal.
However, the concept of leadership is not linear. Given the subjectivity of this quality, it may vary from person to person. As a result
What are the Many Leadership Styles in Product Management?
When you sign up for product management courses, you will also have the opportunity to work on your soft skills and the theoretical aspect of product management. So while it is crucial to possess the strategizing skills, it is equally important to know the kind of leadership that will fit into the work environment.
Here are a few common leadership styles that product managers adopt:
- Visionary Product Management Leadership: A visionary product manager leads the process through a shared goal and a common vision to achieve it. The goal acts as the guiding star that lends direction to product development. This approach introduces shared ownership and responsibility during the process.
- Affiliative Product Management Leadership: The affiliate product management leader puts the people before the product. Building relationships and creating harmony lays the foundation for enhanced productivity and better collaborative action. However, it can be quite an act to pull off the fine balance where your teams and the stakeholders come together in unison.
- Democratic Product Management Leadership: Democratic leadership is one of the most popular leadership styles for product managers. It involves all the team members in the decision-making process and helps build a participative agreement.
- Coaching Product Management Leadership: Typically, coaching or mentoring is not a responsibility carried out by product managers. However, if you are a domain-specific product manager, this leadership style may help you steer the flow of the product development process. You will have to share feedback and guidance with your team, which will push them to perform better.
- Pacesetting Product Management Leadership: In the pacesetting product management leadership format, the product manager leads by example. It allows them to establish what they want from the team and how they want it.
- Coercive Product Management Leadership: Also known as an autocratic form of leadership, coercive product management leads to the dictation of terms, instructions, and demands that call for immediate compliance. While it may sound like a negative trait, it can be highly effective during crisis management and dealing with tight deadlines.
Impact of Democratic Leadership and Why Should Product Managers Follow it?
The purpose of democratic leadership is simple – to distribute responsibilities, empower team members, and facilitate team decision-making processes.
As we can see from above, democratic leadership follows a collaborative approach. When every member of the team is involved in the product development process, there will be higher responsibility and ownership.
Further, the diversified opinions add to the knowledge base and bring fresh ideas in the process. Hence, product managers must adopt democratic leadership for product decisions revolving around the generation and evaluation of new ideas and a strong buy-in.
With the above in mind, democratic leadership offers the following advantages:
- It ensures equal participation and representation of teams or team members, who may otherwise feel invisible or undervalued. As a result of feeling important, teams would be more willing to put in their best efforts.
- Since there are many views and counterviews involved in democratic leadership, the end-product would be more refined and value-rich.
- As they say, many hands make light work. Product developers will find it easier to track or locate issues and solve them efficiently.
- Due to a higher level of involvement, teams will display an equally high level of commitment towards developing the product in the best possible ways.
- As democratic leadership facilitates team building, it allows for easy and seamless communication, easy flow of ideas, and productive discussions. Such activities further reinforce team relationships.
- Since everyone feels involved in the project to an individual level, it will boost the feeling of importance. As a result, employees will register higher morale and increased job satisfaction.
- In democratic leadership, any individual, who is suggesting a proposal will have to present data and facts to support their claim. Therefore, product-related decisions will be not only accurate but also honest.
- It allows for peer-to-peer feedback that is constructive rather than being critical.
- Democratic leadership can be practiced by almost anyone in any product management setting.
- Transparency in the product management process as every stakeholder and team member is kept in the loop.
Limitations of Democratic Leadership
While at the surface, it may appear that democratic leadership “has it all” it also has its fair share of pitfalls, which you can see below:
- Due to the involvement of several individuals, product-related decisions may take longer than usual. Thus, for time-sensitive actions, product managers revert to autocratic leadership.
- The product manager may become overly reliant on the inputs shared by the team, which will result in the loss of their command in routine matters.
- It is easier to lose focus of the larger goal when every individual has their own version or opinion to chip in, which may change the course of action of the product development process.
- Even though a decision may be “unanimous,” it may be tainted by the inputs of misinformed individuals or inaccurate data.
Corporations That Make Use of Democratic Leadership
The concept of democratic leadership is not new. In fact, several well-known corporations have made their way to success due to a mixed leadership approach, where democratic leadership forms the backbone. The nature of leadership changes over time and also depends on the area of operation.
Some of the major companies where product managers follow democratic leadership include:
- Mayo Clinic
The role of a product manager is critical to the growth of a company. Since it requires the product manager to lead the troops into war, choosing the right leadership style could be the strategy for a win. Typically, the democratic leadership strategy appears to be the best way to ensure that the product reaches completion.
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