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Why aren’t more product managers CEOs?

Great product managers must be the "CEO" of their product. If that's the case, why don't more CEOs come from product management positions/backgrounds?

17 Replies

Doug Barre
3
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Doug Barre Entrepreneur
Co-Owner/Partner GeeksForLess
Very good point Nate....probably because most boards incorrectly view sales and finance more important.

In a product company the most critical position is product management. Get that right and your probability of success is increased 10 fold.

The best CEO I know is the best product manager I ever worked with 20 ears ago. So it does happen but not enough.

Doug
Alex Eckelberry
4
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Alex Eckelberry Advisor
CEO at Meros.io
It's a very good point. I was a former PM and became a CEO. However, I find it very rare.

I think a big reason is that investors love sales guys because they're big, bold and make lots of promises. So a lot of sales guys become CEOs. I'm not saying that's bad or good, it just happens to be observable.
Lorraine Wheeler
0
0
President at Redstoke, LLC
I agree with Alex. A startup CEO who needs to raise money is often from a sales background. In effect, they are selling the company to investors. Often, if a startup is raising money, product management falls to someone else because raising money is a full time job. Product managers also get a lot of satisfaction from creating a successful product as opposed to raising money.

I think it is far more common to see a former product manager as a CEO of a bootstrapped company.
Marc Rowen
0
0
Marc Rowen Advisor
Founder & CEO at SquadFusion
Haven't seen research on this, so it's just based on observation and speculation. I think there may be a few reasons.

1. There is a smaller number of PMs compared to other disciplines. Part of what makes a great PM great is the ability to support a large set of constituents.

2. Most PMs don't start their careers as PMs. I would guess a relatively high percentage of people who become CEOs might otherwise become PMs, especially founder CEOs. Moreso perhaps than other career transitions.

3. I agree great PMs are CEOs of their product, but with emphasis on product. A founding CEO also focuses a lot on product in a lot of cases, but as a company becomes more successful, the CEO must focus on other areas. That might not be appealing to a great PM.
Bernard Desarnauts
0
0
Bernard Desarnauts Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur, Advisor & Mentor
Does anyone have data on this? Doesn't ring true for tech companies in Silicon Valley - b
Stewart Kluss
0
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Stewart Kluss Entrepreneur
Operations Executive
A CEO needs to do three things:
- raise the money/handle the shareholders
- be the company's chief evangelist
- be the face of the marketing effort

If the product manager cannot do this, he/she should not be CEO.
Alex Eckelberry
0
0
Alex Eckelberry Advisor
CEO at Meros.io
Stewart, I don't entirely agree with your assesment of what a CEO is. As someone who has worn that hat more than a few times, it ultimately comes down to what product or service is being delivered. This is the point of the discussion -- the product drives everything in an organization, and product managers know more about products than any CEO does.

However, in the end, I find that many product managers don't really have the interest or the drive to become a CEO; they'd rather do what they love to do every day.
Isaiah McPeak
0
0
Isaiah McPeak Advisor
Entrepreneur and Debate Coach
Well... I opened this thread just coming out of a product manager role and into a CEO role. My takeaways for the comments so far:
> gotta be solid at sales and finance, if so...
> this has some greater chance of success
Ran Hadary
0
0
Ran Hadary Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at RIDARTECH
I think the CEO has dual-personality job.

Towards and outside world is what Stewart described, you either have it or not. Regardless of your previous role.
The more important aspect is the inward facing roles. Here you must be both the leader of the company, and the "lubricating oil" between departments (the VPs).

Being that lubricant, is where most Product Managers or Technical folks fail to make the cut. They are too rigid and focused on the technical aspects of the product, to really understand what drives sales and growth.

Once you understand that your customers' perception of the product is what drive sales you would be a good CEO. You will listen to both the product guys and the sales folks and balance between them.

my (lengthy) 2 cents
Bharathi Masilamani
1
0
Bharathi Masilamani Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Development Manager at Amazon
+1
Assuming all of us talking about tech companies - I too strongly believe that strong Product Manager make great CEOs.
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