The 6 Product Leader Archetypes
Since starting our product management-focused practice in 2016, we have interviewed thousands of candidates and placed over 300 product management professionals (from individual contributors through to CPOs), so it’s safe to say we’ve learned a lot.
One of the most important lessons we have learned is that many searches are similar, but rarely are two searches alike. Knowing exactly what persona you need based on product type, company stage, and growth plan can make or break your hire’s ability to succeed.
Here are the 6 most common product leader archetypes:
The 0-1 Persona
- This persona is successful in the discovery to find product-market fit phase.
- They are comfortable 'in the weeds' but work just as well on the strategy necessary to get to the outcome of an MVP.
- We completed this type of Product Manager search for a company of 3 Founders who wanted to hire employee number 4 with a mission to take their 'napkin drawing' of a product idea and bring it to release.
- By contrast, we have also done this search for a publicly traded global company that wanted to bring a new opportunity to the global market.
They are hired to build.
The Data AI/ML Persona
- This product persona is the new kid on the block.
- Data Product Managers used to be the person responsible for reporting and dashboards, but today's Data Product Manager is the person who will leverage AI and ML capabilities to drive decision making for the business and/or their customers.
They are hired to ideate around new experiences and new features that leverage data.
The PLG Persona
- This persona works on products whose delivery model is self-serve.
- Whether a freemium product, paid/free trial, or three-stage pricing model to get premium features, they straddle a B2B/B2C mindset because they are ultimately delivering for "the masses".
They are hired to deliver a frictionless UX.
The Fullstack Persona
- This persona is a Product Manager who is responsible for a product feature from ideation and discovery through the full SDLC to release.
- This persona combines the roles of Product Manager and product owner which in many companies are two different roles. For this reason, they are often found in a startup.
- This persona can sometimes also be found in larger companies if the product is very technical.
- Most Fullstack Product Managers have a STEM degree. They might have begun their career as an Engineer as well.
They are hired to combine PM + product owner responsibilities.
The Integration Persona
- Often a technical Product Manager with exceptional communication skills and comfortability working on complex products.
- This persona might also work closely with a partnerships counterpart.
They are hired to define or deliver an API strategy.
The Best Practices Persona
- Often this persona is a leader (Director/VP) and the most likely to have significant accomplishments around a high profile product/experience.
- They usually have extensive experience working for a 'world-class' product organization with rigor around how product management is done.
- This persona is as much a student of the art & science of the function as they are a Product Manager.
- Likely to be involved in the community as a mentor or thought leader/speaker.
They are hired to bring a level of maturity to a Product Management team.
The Growth Persona
- Experimental by nature, with a growth marketing persona.
- Often found in a PLG business, whether DTC, B2C, or a B2B subscription (SaaS) service.
- Continually analyzing user data, making iterative adjustments, or doing experiments to drive incremental growth or reduce churn and abandonment.
- The pool of talent for this persona is not large, so they are highly sought after, and highly paid because they directly impact growth metrics and revenue.
They are hired to drive growth and scale.
The “Head of” Persona
- Often the first product leader a Founder will hire who is a wonderful combination of strategy, potential, and determination.
- A senior-level Product Manager whose experiences have readied them to take on a first-time leadership role or are a Director-level leader who wants to "run" product for a small company.
- Eager to prove they are ready to lead and often acutely outcome-driven.
They are hired when a Founder is unwilling to fully let go of the product strategy but needs someone to run the day-to-day and more tactical parts of the product function.
The Unicorn Persona
- The top choice for a hiring leader with a list of dreamy requirements often ending with "so I guess we're looking for a 'Unicorn’."
- A cocktail of perfection - they are conveniently available, at a salary you can afford, and excited to work for your brand.
Although this mythical persona does not exist, our experience has taught us that asking the right questions can uncover the practical requirements a hiring leader needs while also making note of the 'magical qualities' they want.
Hiring a product leader can be very nuanced and challenging. As Product Management Recruitment experts we help organizations determine the best Product Manager persona for their business then find candidates with the right background and culture-fit to thrive.