Product manager should not act like a CEO

There’s a saying that product managers are the mini-CEO of the specific product that the person owns. Product managers are responsible for both the success and the failure of the product, and as the flip side product managers have the right to make the product decision themselves. Is this perception necessary?

I started as a product manager under this belief, and over time I changed my mind that this mantra can be more harmful for the success of the product manager. Why?

In the product development team, product managers often not the strongest experts for anything. There’re functional staffs for engineering, design, analysis, marketing, legal, finance, etc. There’s a chance that the product manager is an expert in a few fields from the past experiences. But there’s no way that they are the best at every aspect of the complex product business today.

The mini-CEO mantra often leads to the mental model that product managers need to collect every information to them, and make the right decision. But for the decision making for specific domain, often the individual experts are the best to make the decisions. Also the model will turn the product manager into a bottleneck.

I think the miss-conception comes more from the poor understanding of the CEO’s roll.

I’m seeing myself more and more as a facilitator for the team. We set the vision for the customer, the product and the business, and of course proactively drive the project and the ideation. But when the team is the most productive, each functional staff organically collaborates with each other to proactively share the insights, ideas and actions.

It’s important for the product manager to be up-to-date on what’s going on with the business and the development in detail. But once you de-centralize the process, empower the staffs to make decisions and take actions, based on the common value proposition, you will be a way more productive and successful product manager.