15 Must-Read Books for Product Management Leaders (2022)

You can’t build truly useful and innovative products with constant execution and on-the-fly decision-making. It takes vision and a deep understanding of business, people, and product management.

That’s where this list of books comes in. Here are 15 books that aren’t just full of common sense and platitudes. These books will inspire you with research-backed and proven concepts of leadership, design, business strategy, and making great products.

Read them, and you’ll find yourself a better product manager, leader, and maybe even a slightly better human.

Product Management

1. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

Former CEO of Etsy, Chad Dickerson, says, “If you only have one book on product management, this is the one.”

In this classic product management book, Cagan, a longtime and highly successful product executive for companies like eBay and HP, draws from his hard-won insights to tell you how you know when you’ve got the right product and when you don’t. You’ll also learn how Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon develop products people love and how most tech companies are doing it wrong.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

2. Start at the End: How to Build Products That Create Change by Matt Wallaert

Tech exec and behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert’s book tries to get companies to kick a common habit. This habit involves coming up with ideas, falling in love with them, and then forcing them on the market via expensive marketing campaigns and aggressive sales tactics. Matt offers a new framework based on behavioral science that will help you build products that actually fill a need and help people do what they want.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

3. Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri

If you find yourself spending your energy on outputs over outcomes, this book is for you.

(Video) Books you must read if you want to become a Product Manager

Product managers build products, but are they taking a step back and asking why? Melissa Perri’s book explains how product leaders can only deliver real value to their customers when they spend more time thinking about the strategy, rationale, and fundamental goals behind the products they build.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

4. The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen

This book draws on the principles outlined in another great book, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. While many people love the ideas from The Lean Startup, they’re unsure how to put them into action. The Lean Product Playbook offers practical advice on building winning products. So if you’re still finding your way to product-market fit, read this and see just how lean principles apply to things like identifying target customers, finding areas where customers are underserved, and developing a Minimum Viable Product.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

Business Growth

5. Product-Led Growth: How to Build a Product That Sells Itself by Wes Bush

Product-led growth has been one of the hottest trends in SaaS for the last few years, and for a good reason. Founders and key-decision makers want to know how to leverage their products into customer acquisition and retention machines. If product-led growth is a nut you’ve yet to crack, pick up this book by Wes Bush.

Wes Bush is the founder of the Product-Led Institute, and in this book, he answers questions about how and when to launch free trials, how to improve conversions, and how you can nearly wipe out churn.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

6. Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson

Freemium was the precursor to product-led growth, and while this book isn’t as cutting edge as it was when it debuted in 2009, it’s still a great primer if you’re new to freemium. In this book, Chris Anderson, former WIRED editor-in-chief, forces us to take a long, objective look at how we’re pricing our products in an era where more products and services are free.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

(Video) The Best Books for Product Managers; Interviewing, On the Job and More

7. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Projects to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore

Originally released in 1991, Crossing the Chasm has stood the test of time and is now practically tech gospel. It focuses on how businesses can develop products that make that rare and challenging leap from cool novelties for a small group of early adopters to full-blown mass-market successes.

Tom Kendra, VP, Worldwide Data Management Sales at IBM Software Group, says, “Crossing the Chasm has contributed more to the art and science of high-tech marketing than any other book in the last decade. If you are not one of the thousands of businesses and universities incorporating the chasm insight into your operations, you have to be worried about your future.”

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

Leadership and Management

8. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

Brené Brown is an author, podcast host, professor and researcher best known for her work on vulnerability, shame, and empathy.

In this New York Times bestseller, Brown’s research shows leaders how and why they need to breed a new culture of vulnerability. Too often, leaders think they need to know all the answers, have the best ideas, and always come out on top. In other words, they avoid vulnerability at all costs. But daring leadership – leadership that fosters risks, creativity, growth and empathy – requires vulnerability.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

9. Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products by Marty Cagan with Chris Jones

As any leader knows, hiring top talent is crucial, but what Empowered teaches us is that how you manage versus who you manage is often the missing key to innovation and success.

Empowered is yet another solid product management title from Marty Cagan. While some reviews note there is overlap in the concepts from Inspired, Empowered shifts focus from the process of product management to the ins and outs of product leadership.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

(Video) Managers' Reading List: Great Books for Managers

10. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Other Don’t by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last is a New York Times bestseller and comes from thought leader Simen Sinek who also wrote, Start with Why, Better Together and The Infinite Game (which pops up later on this list). The premise of this book is simple but powerful: leaders need to put the good of their team first, not their own self-interest. Leaders who set this kind of example establish what Sinek calls the “Circle of Trust” where teams are empowered, ready to cooperate, and do their best work for the good of the team and business.

It sounds obvious, but in a world plagued by egos, cynicism, and one-upmanship, this idea has the power to unlock serious potential within your organization.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

Design and User Experience

11. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

This national bestseller uncovers the secret behind why some products seem to hook us without even trying. Based on years of research and practical experience, Nir Eyal offers a concrete four-step process that will change consumer behavior and keep them returning to your product.

Matt Mullenwey, the founder of WordPress, praises the book saying, “Hooked gives you the blueprint for the next generation of products. Read Hooked, or the company that replaces you will.”

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

12. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Product leaders have to be able to recognize good, human-centered design. This book will teach you just that.

Author Don Norman is a researcher, professor and author with expertise in design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. In this book, he’ll take you on a deep dive into the psychology of intuitive design that effortlessly guides users to the right action at the right time. Read it, and you’ll start noticing design everywhere you go.

(Video) The Top 10 Best Management Books To Read in 2022

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

13. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman

This is a great companion book to The Design of Everyday Things. In it, Norman goes beyond usability to explore the emotional side of design. He shows us that it’s not enough to give customers what they need; you have to connect with their emotional motivations, aspirations, and how they want to present themselves to the world. We often hear vague advice about delighting customers – this book tells you how.

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

Inspirational and Motivational

14. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As a product leader, you make endless choices about your team, products, and the direction of your business. If it makes you nervous that you’re blind to the real reasons behind many of your decisions, pick up this book today.

This book will teach you how you think in all areas of your life. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnamen reveals when you can trust your intuitive, emotional impulses and when you should lean into your slow, logical thinking.

Among the vast praise for this book, co-author of Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt says, “Daniel Kahneman is one of the most original and interesting thinkers of our time. There may be no other person on the planet who better understands how and why we make the choices we make. In this absolutely amazing book, he shares a lifetime’s worth of wisdom presented in a manner that is simple and engaging, but nonetheless stunningly profound. This book is a must-read for anyone with a curious mind.”

Available in print, audiobook and digital download

15. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Infinite Game is another celebrated book by Simon Sinek. This time he walks us through the idea of thriving at a game that has no end – a concept sure to resonate with product managers whose products are never finished. It’s time to ditch our ideas about the bottom line, winning, and beating the competition. In business, the goal is really to keep moving forward, to keep growing…to keep playing the game.

Read the Infinite Game, and you’ll find yourself in a new headspace where you embrace surprises, see possibilities, focus less on the competition and more on the larger vision, and work for the good of your team and the good of the game.

(Video) The Top 10 Books On Product Management | 2021 Must-Read UI-UX Designers, BAs and Product Owners

Available in print, audiobook and digital download.

Are there any great books we may have missed on our list? Tell us about them by emailing content_team@productplan.com!

FAQs

What should product managers read? ›

Product managers keep talking about these 10 books
  • Inspired: How to Create Tech Products That Customers Love. ...
  • Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. ...
  • Continuous Discovery Habits. ...
  • The Lean Startup. ...
  • The Product Book: How to Become a Great Product Manager. ...
  • The Lean Product Playbook.
17 Aug 2022

What are the top 3 things that make a good product manager? ›

Aspiring PMs should consider three primary factors when evaluating a role: core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit. The best PMs I have worked with have mastered the core competencies, have a high EQ, and work for the right company for them.

What are the four 4 critical skills of a product managers? ›

Skills Required to Become a Product Manager
  • Writing Technical Requirements and Specs. Coming up with product optimizations and new product ideas is an integral part of a product manager's role. ...
  • Conducting Market Research. ...
  • Strategic Thinking. ...
  • Excellent Oratory and Communication Skills. ...
  • Excellent Negotiation Skills.
22 Apr 2022

What makes a great product management leader? ›

Product Leaders must be able to establish the right process and activate those methods that allow fast execution, continuous discovery of high-potential ideas, and smooth adaptation of the product based on insights and just-in-time information and knowledge.

What are the 3 major areas of product management? ›

It identifies the three primary areas of focus for product management, namely: Product discovery. Product Planning. Product Development.

What is your strongest skill set as a product manager? ›

Soft Skills
  1. Critical Thinking And Analytical Skills. This is a must-have for any PM. ...
  2. Leadership And The Ability To Take Initiative. As with any management position, leadership skills are important for supporting and motivating your team. ...
  3. Flexibility. ...
  4. Problem-Solving. ...
  5. Time Management. ...
  6. Communication Skills.

What is the hardest part of product management? ›

What's the hardest part of product management? Our research shows that the hardest parts of the job for many product managers are organizational comms, managing deadlines, team alignment, and balancing different responsibilities.

What are 3 characteristics of a high performing product management team? ›

The Traits of Great Product Managers
  • They are customer obsessed.
  • Over communicate strategy and vision.
  • Partner and influence.
  • They are both strategic and tactical.
  • Utilize data and their intuition to make decisions.
7 Aug 2021

How do you survive the hardest part of product management? ›

Ask questions. One of the hardest challenges in product management is getting people aligned—especially if they have different reporting lines and objectives. Here it helps to remember that our job is not to have all the answers—but to ask the best questions.

What are the 5 D's in product development? ›

Discover, Design, Develop, Deploy, Deliver TM

This is what we call the “5D vision of Product Management”. Product managers need to consider, plan, and execute in all 5 Dimensions to create great products.

Is it stressful being a product manager? ›

Every day is different for a product manager. If you like structure and planned sprints for your tasks, product management may be an unpleasant and stressful job for you!

What is product management mindset? ›

In short, a product management mindset is a customer-focused mindset. You are focusing on developing a product to solve the customer's problem. It is a more long-term way of thinking. Instead of being caught up in project deadlines, you are focusing on the ultimate goal of helping the customer.

Who is higher than product manager? ›

A Chief Product Officer (CPO) is the most senior product person in an organisation. They usually manage more than one team of product managers and represent product in the C-suite or management team.

What is the top priority of a product manager? ›

Improving the product innovation and management process and gaining consistency are top priorities.

What are the 4 product layers? ›

Four Levels of the Product. There are four levels of a product (shown in the figure below): core, tangible, augmented, and promised. Each is important to understand in order to address the customer needs and offer the customer a complete experience.

What are the 4 product types? ›

There are four types of products and each is classified based on consumer habits, price, and product characteristics: convenience goods, shopping goods, specialty products, and unsought goods.

What are the 2 responsibilities of product manager? ›

A product manager's job description involves planning and executing the product's lifecycle. It also includes curating and prioritizing the requirements of products and customers. Product managers work closely with the sales, marketing, and engineering teams for various aspects.

What has been your biggest challenge as a product manager? ›

Biggest challenges of product management
  • Problem #1: Finding the right product-market fit. ...
  • Problem #2: Defining the business problem you are trying to solve. ...
  • Problem #3: Multitasking. ...
  • Problem #4: User Research. ...
  • Problem #5: Getting your organization to focus on a single objective/metric. ...
  • Problem #6: Idea Validation.

Is product manager a high level role? ›

Product managers are mid-level roles. While you don't necessarily have to have a direct product management background, you should have professional experience and demonstrable skills in communication, leadership, and strategy. Product managers are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and features of a product.

Which MBA is best for product management? ›

Best MBA Programs for Product Management
  1. Sloan School of Management — Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ...
  2. Graduate School of Business — Stanford University. ...
  3. Haas School of Business — University of California Berkeley. ...
  4. Stern School of Business — New York University. ...
  5. Kellogg School of Management — Northwestern University.

What are the weakness of a product manager? ›

As an example, many product managers lead with the weakness of “I wish I were more technical”, but it's rare that technical knowledge would fundamentally change the way that a product decision was made. We want to see that you understand where to focus your time, rather than just calling out random weaknesses.

Which country is best for product management? ›

7 Cities Product Managers Love
  1. London, England. London takes the top spot on many lists for tech in Europe. ...
  2. Berlin, Germany. You can't possibly talk about tech in Europe without talking about Berlin! ...
  3. Paris, France. ...
  4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ...
  5. Lisbon, Portugal. ...
  6. Dublin, Ireland. ...
  7. Stockholm, Sweden.
2 Nov 2020

Why is product management so hard? ›

Perhaps the hardest part of being a Product Manager is the community-building aspect. A person can have all the qualifications and hard skills needed to be the best Product Manager to date, but without the ability to effectively build relationships across teams and with colleagues, they may never succeed.

What are the 4 product attributes? ›

Product attributes are the features that describe an item – objective and subjective details that can help a potential customer decide what to buy. These include, but aren't limited to, technical specifications, design features like color and size, materials used in manufacturing, and the price.

What are the 7 factors for a high performance team? ›

7 Traits of High Performing Teams
  • Communication. The most important trait of high performing teams is strong communication. ...
  • Leadership. Leadership is a given. ...
  • Team building. ...
  • Onboarding. ...
  • Common Values and Beliefs. ...
  • Singular Vision and Mission. ...
  • Politically Incorrect.
18 Nov 2016

How can I improve my product management skills? ›

How I Improve My Product Management Skills
  1. Strategy & Big Picture Thinking.
  2. Product Sense.
  3. Structuring Problems & Analytics.
  4. Soft Skills & Communication.
  5. Attention to Detail, and.
  6. Project Execution.
26 Feb 2019

Why do product managers fail? ›

Despite all of its advantages, many product managers fail to be effective in such an environment. This often happens when managers are plunged into this unfamiliar environment when they've yet to fully understand this new approach, as well as the changes it brings.

What do product managers struggle with? ›

Lack of control in product development affects the effectiveness of a product manager. You as a product manager need to take the consensus of all other people associated with the product team before making any major decisions. This is another pain point that a Product manager goes through.

What's your biggest failure as a product manager and why does it happen? ›

I learned that people and teams build great products, not processes and job descriptions. The quality of the teamwork will directly reflect in the quality of the product. My biggest failure as a product manager was failing to build a foundation of teamwork before starting a project with a new cross-functional team.

What are the 7 stages of product development? ›

Although the product development process differs by industry, it can essentially be broken down into seven stages: ideation, research, planning, prototyping, sourcing, costing, and commercialization.

What are the 4 elements of product strategy? ›

4 Key Components of Product Strategy
  • Customers. Who is your target customer? ...
  • Competitors. Now that you know who you're selling to, you need to look at the competitors selling to the same target customers. ...
  • Business. Your company's shareholders expect you to make money and provide a return on investment. ...
  • Macro Environment.

What is 6d process? ›

They stand for Discover, Define, Design, Develop, Deploy and Drive, the building blocks of the UX process. Companies can come to the table with some of them already figured out, or just with an idea.

How old are most product managers? ›

The average age of an employed product manager is 38 years old.

Was Steve Jobs a product manager? ›

As Apple CEO, Steve Jobs involved himself as a de facto product manager by having a hand in the design, direction, vision, and messaging of its most important products, including the iPod.

What is the minimum salary of a product manager? ›

Product Manager salary in India with less than 2 year of experience to 13 years ranges from ₹ 5.9 Lakhs to ₹ 35 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 16.4 Lakhs based on 22.8k salaries.

What is the main goal of product management? ›

Product management is the job of looking after a specific product within a business. It's a role at the very heart of an organization that needs to balance the need to deliver value to your company (usually profit) with what customers want and what's technically and operationally possible.

How do you show passion for product management? ›

Following the flock will lead you nowhere. Product management is for passionate people who want to make a difference. It could be a passion for technology, innovation, solving a customer problem, or redefining the user experience. Or it could be a passion for capturing a market and implementing a winning strategy.

What is product management in a nutshell? ›

Product Management is about making sure that we build the right product for the market. We start with a mission from business to build something for the benefit of customers that will achieve business goals. We work to understand the customer and their needs, to ensure product-market fit.

What should a product manager do every day? ›

What do product managers do? A day in the life
  • Discover what users need.
  • Prioritize what to build.
  • Rally the team around the roadmap.
  • Deliver the feature.
  • Champion the team.

Is product manager well paid? ›

Product management is a well-paid job and has a high level of job satisfaction. The product manager's salary is primarily based on years of experience, job location and skills. The average annual salary for product managers can range from $61,000 to $200,000 per year.

Who is paid higher project VS product manager? ›

Generally, product managers make more than project managers in the US. The average product manager's salary in the US is $111,755 a year, while a project manager in the US makes an average salary of $87,637, according to August 2021 data from Glassdoor.

What is the next position after product manager? ›

Once a product manager has around 3-5 years of experience under their belt, they can move up to the role of a senior product manager. At this level, you'll be taking on more responsibilities in your role, which include the following: Managing product managers. Managing collaboration across cross functional teams.

What are the top 3 qualities you have that would make you a good product manager? ›

There are many important qualities of a good Product Manager.
...
Here are five of the many qualities that are important to making things happen and inspiring others.
  • Empathy. ...
  • Visionary. ...
  • Strong Communicator – Verbally & Visually. ...
  • Strategic Thinking. ...
  • Decisiveness.
12 Oct 2019

What product managers should avoid? ›

Avoid these common product management mistakes
  • Following customer requests to a 'T' There's a big difference between what customers want and what they need. ...
  • Focusing on the solution rather than the problem. ...
  • Misunderstanding customer needs. ...
  • Neglecting business opportunities.

What qualities do you need to be a product manager? ›

Characteristics of great product managers
  • Product taste. Product taste means having the insights and intuition to understand customer needs for a product in a given area. ...
  • Ability to prioritize. ...
  • Ability to execute. ...
  • Strategic sensibilities. ...
  • Top 10% communication skills. ...
  • Metrics and data-driven approach.

Why do product managers quit? ›

#1 Bad Company Management and Leadership

“People don't leave companies, people leave managers,” one product manager cleverly concluded in our poll, and most product managers seem to agree. Bad company management and leadership got 431 votes which clearly makes it the number one reason why PMs leave their jobs.

What does a 30-60-90 plan look like? ›

An effective 30-60-90 day plan consists of three larger phases — one for days 1-30, one for days 31-60, and one for days 61-90. Each phase has its own goal. For example, the goal in the first 30 days is to learn as much as possible about your new job.

How many hours per week do product managers work? ›

Generally speaking, I've noticed that most product managers aim for about 50 hours per week. Now that you've estimated your weekly bandwidth, block out your time over the next week with “free” calendar events. For each block of time, determine what objectives you will achieve in that period of time.

How do you become a product manager leader? ›

5 Steps for More Effective Product Leadership
  1. Build and mentor the right team. ...
  2. Develop processes and practices that improve teamwork. ...
  3. Create a culture of collaboration among all teams working on the product. ...
  4. Promote a culture of customer-centricity. ...
  5. Consistently experiment and learn.

How do I know if I will be a good product manager? ›

You will love Product management if you are a person with great vision. If you know how to break that vision into tangible chunks and layout a plan to fulfill that vision, you will be a good PM. If you are empathetic and can put yourself into customers shoes every time before you think, you will be a great PM.

What are the 7 steps to plan a product? ›

Although the product development process differs by industry, it can essentially be broken down into seven stages: ideation, research, planning, prototyping, sourcing, costing, and commercialization.

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