GUIDE 2022

Essential Product Lead Skills

Looking for the top product lead skills you must master to succeed as a product leader?
Product leads are responsible for the creation and development of new products. They manage and track the entire product strategy from design to completion.
A product lead is a senior-level role in an organization. Specific titles vary depending on the structure of a company. Alternative job titles for the role include lead product manager, group product manager, or senior product manager.
Specific duties also vary between organizations. All product leaders need a varied skillset and plenty of experience.
It is a competitive and challenging career that involves managing people as well as products.
We have identified the key skills for a successful career as a product lead. Keep reading to discover what you must start working on to propel your career today. 

Hard and Soft Product Lead Skills

A mix of hard and soft skills is essential for a successful product lead. Having a mixture of skills is important if you are moving into product management from an alternative career path.
Hard skills are specific to the role of a product lead. Educational courses and hands-on experience in product management provide valuable knowledge.
Hard skills are useful for creating a successful product roadmap and product strategy. They include business, management, engineering, and project management skills.
These skills ensure you have the ability to design and deliver a successful product.
Soft skills apply to all professions. All career paths provide opportunities to learn and develop them. This is why they are also called transferable skills. 
Soft skills are personal attributes. Product leads manage people and liaise between departments. Soft skills such as communication and interpersonal skills are critical for success.

Hard Product Lead Skills

Technical Skills

The technical skills required by a product lead vary depending on the industry area.
Technical Product Management
A product lead managing the production of a complex digital product needs to know how digital technology works. Product leads also need to understand the roles and functions of a range of teams from product developers to UX designers. Understanding technical aspects of the industry is an essential product lead skill.
As a product lead, you need to communicate with customers. A clear understanding of the product allows you to empathize with customers. It also helps you know how the product you are developing helps solve their needs.

Industry Skills

In-depth industry knowledge is essential for fulfilling the role of a product lead.  Expectations of industry skills differ between organizations.
But all product lead roles demand high levels of experience and knowledge. Having industry skills helps you understand the processes and systems used by each department.
During your career, you gain industry-specific experience as you progress through a company. Research is necessary if you are looking to break into an alternative industry.

Business Skills

Business skills are often developed through a business or marketing certification. Understanding the business aspects of developing and launching a product is essential.
You need to be aware of budgets, financial forecasting, cash flow projections, and profit and loss. This helps a product lead monitor the financial aspects of product development. It also assists with creating contingency budget plans.
Business skills give you the ability to analyze data and make strategic decisions. This drives your organization’s success. As product management evolves, product leads are set to become more business-focused. With this in mind, it is a product lead skill worth developing.

Marketing and Sales Skills

Knowledge of changes in markets and how to respond to these is essential for product leads. This means developing effective strategies for launching your products.
By maximizing the success of the product it increases profit potential. Marketing skills are often gained as part of a business study pathway.
Product Strategy Framework
Understanding sales helps you bring your product to consumers. Launch a new product without spending a large portion of the budget on advertising.

Project Management Skills

Product leads need to understand all aspects of developing a product. This includes the design, development, testing, and launch. Project management skills help achieve the project goals in a specific timescale.
What is Project Management
Product leads track and adjust strategies to meet the timescales and budgets of all stakeholders. Product leads are responsible for setting goals and objectives. To meet these targets an overview of the schedules of all teams is essential. Good project management skills help product leads bring their product to completion.

Research Skills

A product lead needs to have good research skills. Market research uncovers gaps in the market that prove profitable. Good research skills give also you an in-depth understanding of market competitors.
Researching competitors’ brands give you an edge in the market.
Market Research Methodology
Research skills are also essential for gathering customer views. This informs product leaders about current or potential future products. Developing unique products that meet a demand allows you to exceed customer expectations.

Soft Product Lead Skills

Excellent communication skills are essential for product leads. Both written and verbal communication skills are important. Product leads deliver presentations to key stakeholders and write detailed reports. Product leads are responsible for communicating the product progress to all teams.  A large part of the role involves liaison. This is between teams, across departments, and with all stakeholders. All employees need to be aware of timescales, targets, and progress. Setting and delivering clear and concise goals is crucial for a positive outcome. Adjust your communication style for communicating with colleagues or consumers.
Communication skills are integral to the career of a product lead. So it is worth highlighting why such good communication skills are vital.
The following situations need communication skills:
* Negotiating with stakeholders
* Handling conflict
* Understanding different points of view
* Building rapport with teams
* Modeling respect between colleagues
* Delivering feedback on targets
Stellar communication skills are critical to the success of a product. As the spokesperson for your product, this is definitely a product lead skill to hone.

Interpersonal Skills

Alongside communication skills, interpersonal skills are also essential. Product leaders are responsible for the product roadmap. This means they need to foster good working relationships with all those involved. You need to have active listening skills and be a skilled negotiator. Product leads form relationships with internal and external audiences. A good product lead tells the story of the product. This inspires enthusiasm and excitement for its development. Excellent interpersonal skills are crucial for fostering positive relationships. This keeps teams motivated and on task. Interpersonal skills are also useful if your role involves coaching other product managers.

Customer Service Skills

Meeting the needs of customers is the aim of all new products. A product lead must have a good understanding of customer needs. This is vital for a successful product launch. Product leads need to optimize the user experience and respond to changes when necessary. Product leads embrace diversity and cultural differences. You must understand the impact of these on product strategy. By focusing on customer pain points, products meet consumer needs.

Teamworking Skills

Teamworking is an essential skill of a product lead. To track progress across varied departments they need to work with multidisciplinary teams. Adjusting your approach depending on which team you are working with is vital. Working with multiple product teams requires the ability to coordinate tasks between them. This helps you to deliver a clear message that directs focus and keeps each department on task.

Leadership Skills

Having keen leadership skills is a real bonus for a product lead. Leadership skills are useful for delegating tasks and setting goals. It is useful to learn about the processes and focus of different departments. This experience creates a higher level of respect. Team members know your real-world experience has informed your decision-making. Product leads drive development by providing direction to others. Leading and managing a team is important since it enables you to support the success of a product. Leadership is about being a strong role model to colleagues. A good leader empowers teams by promoting a sense of pride and responsibility in their work.

Confidence and Resilience Skills

Confidence and resilience are essential for product leads. The role involves responsibility for product development and decision-making. This leaves you open to feedback and criticism from others. Develop strategies for listening to feedback and using it in a constructive way. This prevents you from taking things personally. It also enables you to rectify or adapt your approach. The ability to balance emotions with logic is a skill that is worth developing. Developing a reflective practice is useful. This helps you assess your progress and discover strategies to improve. A resilient mindset also models to others how to cope with setbacks.

Analytical Skills

Analyzing and interpreting high volumes of data is an important product lead skill. Product leads in the SaaS industry, for example, need to analyze and understand in-depth statistics.
Product leads carry out extensive research on consumer needs and market trends. They need to have a clear understanding of the relationship between trends and the needs of their customers. This deep analytical insight predicts future trends. It also identifies gaps in the market to meet or exceed customer expectations. Analytical ability and data inform decision-making and development strategies.

Strategic Thinking Skills

Strategic thinking is integral to the role of a product lead. Overseeing the production of a product requires the ability to expect setbacks. Product leads maintain and develop the vision for the product beyond the product roadmap. Strategic thinking helps a product lead analyze current circumstances.
Strategy Framework
This enables you to create goals that lead toward a successful launch. Critical thinking skills help you anticipate potential pitfalls. Product leaders use strategies to identify and mitigate them. Strategic thinking also gives you an awareness of timescales related to each phase of product development.

Time-Management Skills

Effective time-management skills help product leads judge the best way to use their time. Product management is fast-paced. It requires the ability to prioritize tasks and use your time for the greatest effect. Developing time-management skills is essential. This helps to deal with the constant changes in a hectic work environment. By structuring your daily and weekly tasks you accomplish goals whilst retaining flexibility.

Key Takeaways for Product Lead Skills

Project leads need drive and motivation to continually build and evolve their skills. Particularly in the tech and SaaS industry, where change and innovation are rapid.
Take ownership of your professional development by growing and enhancing your skills.
This helps you thrive in this competitive career. Developing and refining a varied skill set improves your resume and puts you ahead of the competition.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product Manager HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.