Leading with No Reporting Lines

What is the most important skill for an effective Product Manager?

We are indeed talking about world class professionals with outstanding technical skills, solid business understanding, competences in project management, organisational skills, marketing. So the list of minimum requirements is long and it goes on much further: capacity to communicate effectively across the company organisation, from the most junior technician to senior management, ability to clearly define value propositions and convey them through powerful marketing communication. A good grasp of finance is necessary most of the time and an absolute requirement is the capacity to think strategically.

Does any such individual even exist? And we haven’t started discussing the most important skill: being able to persuade people to do what you need them to. I am using the verb “to persuade” purposefully. Because the CEO of the Product usually have no direct report. A CEO with no employees!

Leading without formally managing anyone requires a strong personality. It also requires capacity to “read” people, influencing and negotiation skills together with a good dose of charisma. All must be part of the Product Manager’s toolbox.


Product Managers live in the core of the matrix management  concept, “commonly used to describe managing cross functional, cross business group and other forms of working that cross the traditional vertical business units – often silos – of function and geography” (from Wikipedia).


I recommend reading the good post 3 Key Concepts for Product Management in a Matrix Organization by Michael Swan on LinkedIn.

Michael speaks about a clear communication of the Why, the What and the How. A clear plan and an effective communication across business functions is indeed the key to success.

So what is the most important skill for a Product Manager? There isn’t such a thing as a single dominant skill but surely the capacity to bond with and inspire people is more important than technical knowledge.

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