Why the best PM Leads are INTP
a broad overgeneralization about what makes a good Head of Product
I like Myers-Briggs - I am not too dogmatic about it but it’s a framework I’ve found valuable in a lot of teams and companies (I wrote a bunch about it here: “Why I like Myers Briggs (with dynomight's expansions)”.)
This post is a quick one about why the best Product Management (PM) Leads (e.g., “Heads of Product”) I’ve worked with are INTP. I’ve seen this over and over across companies and I think it’s actually a pattern…
(NB: This post assumes you know Myers-Briggs types pretty well… if not, Google :)
Here is why Heads of Product are often INTP:
Introvert (I) : Often PM Leads come from engineering or some other technical discipline where for a large part of their life they were inward-focused. I think those that were more outwards / people-focused often ended up in different professions (to broadly over-generalize which, frankly, is the whole point of this post :). PM Leads obviously work with large groups of people and need to have some extroversion but they rarely lean “extroverted”…
Intuitive (N): Great Product leads are often not too detailed oriented - they can see the big picture. If they are more detail oriented by nature they will have learned to move beyond this — i.e., they will have learned to see the big picture in order to become the main boss… (or they haven’t in which case they probably micro-manage and aren’t great PM Leads)
Thinking (T): Product Leads are rarely Myers-Briggs “Feeling”/“F”s - they lean much more towards “logically deciding” vs. fairness/emotions. Now, of course they do need some product sensibilities but I think they get that more through their “N”/Intuitive side of thinking vs. from the “F”/“feeling the user need.” Often you see a lot more of the “F” on the UX side of the house (this is also why often UX and Product Leads clash).
Perceiving (P): Product leads are usually “P”s which means they have a very high comfort with ambiguity. Often as heads of product you have to deal with situations where the world doesn’t make sense for prolonged periods of time and you just have to live with it. Being a “P” is crucial for this; J’s go crazy in this environment. The downside of this trait is that this also means Heads of Product are often really bad at prioritizing and they don’t make decisions. The best PM Leads are “P” that have learned to avoid these issues…
To recap: best product leads lean towards introversion, high intuition / big-picture thinking, high on rational thinking and high comfort with ambiguity. The internet calls INTPs “Logicians”:
“People with this personality type crave intellectual stimulation, freedom to pursue their ideas, and opportunities to solve challenging puzzles. And if they can fulfill these needs with minimal social obligations and humdrum administrative tasks, so much the better.”
One thing to note is that this personality type is probably better as Head of Product than actually being a more junior PM managing a specific feature; managing a very detailed product roadmap would benefit from a very different set of skills… so INTPs that want to make it to the top need to find a way of making it through the ranks.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons many heads of product arrive as “imports”/acquihires into staid companies — this type of talent often doesn’t make it through normal performance pipelines.
until next time
PS - I’m not INTP in case you were wondering…
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