Why you are not being perceived as an executive

career leadership product management May 19, 2023

One of the keys to leveling up to a leadership role within product management is executive presence.

Here is the challenge, when you are at the early stages of your career, it’s all about doing. If you can get the work done, you are golden.

As you move from business analyst to product manager to senior product manager to Director, your role shifts from execution to leadership.

To cross the chasm into leadership, you must demonstrate your ability to inspire and mobilize people, get buy in for major product initiatives, think strategically, and innovate.

It is no longer about just delivering results. But you now need to get teams on board with new initiatives, manage the politics of senior leadership, and be seen as someone senior leaders want to have at the strategy table.

How do leaders decide who gets promoted or who gets hired into the leadership role? They evaluate if you are ready for leadership based on how you communicate, how you act and what you deliver.


1- How you communicate

This is less about what you say and more about how you say it.

Product leaders initiate, inform and ask for feedback.

Product Managers focused on execution often ask for instructions and look to their managers for answers. 


2- How you act

There’s a big difference between doing your job by following instructions of your leader and doing your job by making your own decisions. 

It’s the difference between:

“How do you want me to build the roadmap?”

“Here is my roadmap to achieve our goals this year. My team and I aligned with the company KPIs. Could you review and share feedback?” 


3- What you focus on

Product leaders can zoom out and then zoom in. They can see the bigger picture and the details. They don’t spend all of their time in the weeds doing hands on work. They stay informed, but they spend most of their time on the strategy.

If you are constantly in the weeds, you may be considered an invaluable employee, but you won’t be perceived as an executive.



 Evaluate yourself based on those 3 criteria and make sure you are sending out the right signals. Sometimes something as simple as reframing a question or rewriting an email can completely transform how you are being perceived. 

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