All related (15)
Natalia Baryshnikova
Head of Product, Enterprise Agility, AtlassianFebruary 17

1. Storytelling. You need to be able to tie many disparate pieces of product work - user needs, business goals, technical limitaitons, competitive landscape, innovation opportunities - into a coherent, compelling narrative. A director can fill in the blanks in the following sentences with ease: "This year, my team is trying to achieve _____ because our comany needs to _____. In order to reach our goal, we need resources of ______ , focus on ______ and ______ and support from ______."

2. System thinking. A common mistake I see in PMs is trying to get *their* work done without thinking through the impact it has on adjacent teams - think, I need to meet MY goal and have MY feature on the home page, without consideration for a global optima. Directors need to think at least one level of abstraction about their own area. Who else will be impacted by your work? Is that impact good? Does it add up to greater good, or is it a local optima? 

3. Inspire others. The difference between a manager and individual contributor PMs is that the goal of individual controbutor is to "get sh*t done", and goal of manager is to "make sh*t happen". You need to be able to achieve goals through your own work AND the work of others on your team. This is only possible if people can be inspired by your vision, integrity and leadership. 

Julian Dunn
Senior Director of Product Management, GitHubNovember 30

My answer to this depends a lot on whether the "director" title includes people management or not. Personally, I believe that it should, and that the IC (individual contributor) track should only use the titles PM 1-3, Senior PM, Staff PM, Principal PM, Distinguished PM, etc. But I don't make the rules for the industry :-) and I recognize a lot of organizations use "director" to mean IC as well.

I am going to answer the question assuming you mean that it includes people management. Accordingly, the top skill you want to have is a) knowing that you want to manage (a/k/a model, coach/mentor, care) other humans and that you don't just want to be an IC with more influence, and b) learning how to do that, or at least walking into it having some kind of a philosophy about management. I don't believe it's necessary to have prior experience as a people manager before becoming one (otherwise it's a chicken & egg situation and there would never be any people managers!) but demonstrating coaching / mentoring / feedback behaviors with your peers is a great way to gain these skills before you manage other people.

I can't emphasize the foregoing enough because if you do not truly care about understanding human beings in general, what motivates the specific humans on your team, and how you can coach them to being better PMs, then you are going to view the "process" of managing people (HR reviews, hiring / separation duties, compensation management, 1:1s, etc.) as drudgery rather than tools to build an amazing team.

I would say that the other two skills that are critical are:

  • Being able to drive change through your team, representing both their plans and their achievements to senior management and advocating for them, and
  • Executive presence and gravitas, including the ability to remain level-headed and confident no matter the obstacles in front of you, to give both your team and your management the confidence in you as a leader.
Milena Krasteva
Sr Director II, Product Management, WalmartOctober 6

1. Communication

2. Execution

3. Domain expertise

I'd add stakeholder management as an important one but I can only do the top 3 :)

Vasudha Mithal
Senior Director, Product Management, Headspace HealthAugust 23
  1. Exemplary people leadership (ability to bring people along)
  2. Strong relationships across various functions (including non-R&D teams) - get done what's needed to solve a problem, and get products launched.
  3. Maturity to know when to switch course for a product line, drive tough decisions, and leverage #1 to bring your team along with you in that decision.