HomeIndustry KnowledgeQualities of a Software Development Team Lead

Qualities of a Software Development Team Lead

Overview

The position of a team lead is achieved after a rather extensive journey of skill development and hands-on experience. This journey from being a developer (or holding any other technical position) to earning a leadership role can be quite overwhelming. 

To help you reach your full potential as a team leader or better prepare you for the Team Lead position, we’ve collected information on how leadership roles work in software development and some of the qualities a good team leader has. 

In any case, you may just end up devising your own strategies to combat the obstacles, but we recommend hearing our side of the story.

Responsibilities of a Team Lead

A team leader should essentially have the one important quality of efficient leadership, right? However, what this quality entails is an entirely different matter. 

Thus, a good software development team lead should not only be a seasoned and enthusiastic programmer who is efficient in writing and designing code but also:

  1. Be able to coordinate the tasks of a development team
  2. Align expectations of the team members and external pressures
  3. Control the quality of produced code
  4. Assist with the architectural decision
  5. And once in a while enforce procedures or processes that might improve the output (Quality or Pace) of the team.

Additionally to the above mentioned “routine” items, there are the items like new member onboarding, firefighting with unexpected outages or issues, and once in a while taking a bullet for your team member mistakes.

Understanding How to Help

Now, this gets quite tricky. As a team leader, you’re eager to get started, to help your team achieve their best selves under your directions. You run from one member to the next, activating your superhero mode. You might, at one point, find yourself solving every problem that your devs face and fixing codes at the speed of light.

Turns out, some members aren’t too fond of this practice. Your new team members haven’t learned how to solve problems efficiently, while your weaker devs are making no progress.

Being a responsible team lead comes with the additional (and sometimes really tough) task of giving space to your team members. This helps them grow and develop into their best selves, promoting a positive environment within the team.

Hence, it’s imperative that you carefully contemplate which team member to help and when to help them.

Treat your teammates as humans!

Quite obvious, right? Developing code for a long period detaches you from the communication and collaboration responsibilities that come with the job of being a team leader.

Writing, running it, fixing it if something goes wrong is easy. Want to know what’s not easy? Ensuring your team members are consistent with their performance, satisfied with the working culture, tools, and processes, and on top of all that the stakeholders are satisfied with the speed and quality of the delivery.

But like we just said, your team members are Humans. Collaborating with a specific person may result in a unique situation/problem today and an entirely different one tomorrow. And quite often the same problem might occur again and again.

Be ready for it! This is not something you can easily resolve by adding a unit test to your written interface.

You should however give them instructions that are just enough to ensure they don’t compromise their creative abilities. 

In case there is a problem, first, encourage the team member to try and figure out the solution themselves or seek help from their fellow programmers (this also initiates greater internal communication).

Establishing a Work-culture

It is difficult to define what exactly constitutes the term work-culture. However, on analyzing the two words separately, it can be safely assumed that ’culture’ is more or less a collection of shared values. When this is integrated into the workplace, there is greater coordination and communication among groups of individuals. 

If you believe in a working environment that’s stress-free, ensure that you do not overlook this value. It helps you maintain a relaxed atmosphere within the team. 

If you’re set on creating an empathetic and helpful team, ensure that you do not discourage your team members from asking for help (even if it’s something manageable). 

Your team will recognize which values you advocate but do not implement. In order to ensure that you truly believe in what you say, set only realistic goals and expectations. This will help you become a relatable team lead who encourages their devs to express their concerns.

Handling Additional Pressure

There is one thing every software development team lead can relate to – the sudden and frequent need for project updates. As a programmer, you had to communicate with your team leader about deadlines, delays and project obstacles. However, as a team lead, you have to communicate the decided ETA to the management. The only problem is that you’re not the one doing the work, and at times, you’re unsure of its status.

There is constant pressure to get the work done by your devs as soon as possible. You might even be persuaded by the product management to get the work done faster. In cases like these, priority setting is important, but there is one more thing that is perhaps more important- the ability to stand your ground.

When you listen to your developers and communicate the limitations to the management, a balance can be achieved. In this way, you not only save yourself and your developers a lot of stress, but you also make sure that the management is happy with the polished, finished result.

To Wrap This Up

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You probably won’t become the best software development team lead in a day either. Even after reading this article, you will end up making mistakes, estimating incorrect ETAs, or rushing your team members into poor quality. However, as long as you have even a slight grip on things, it will all turn out alright.

Keep your head high (but not too high), relax, remember your experiences as a developer and just be honest and realistic about your expectations from the team. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Once you’ve seen and solved your team’s problems a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.

Also, congratulations if you just landed a position as a software development team lead and I wish you all of the best if this is something you are looking forward to in the upcoming years working in tech.

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