Napoleon of technical leaders

There is no I or Me in a team. There is only the team. But team needs a leader. It’s a well known fact, human psychology, we need leaders. It is something we might not admit to or not even know about it. We will look up at a guide or a inspiration that will lead our work, correct our mistakes or give advice.

Sometimes team leaders are developing during the process of team formatting (beginning of the team) as a natural process, sometimes they are being assigned to do the job.

Us developers need a technical lead, someone who will guide us while we are doing our job. After few years of IT experience, I can say that I have worked with few good and few bad team leaders.

What makes a good team/technical leader then? Whatever makes a good leader plus strong technical capabilities.
Good Listener
Good listening skills.
It means that you will be listened and your opinion will be taken seriously. I have worked on few occasions with people who just couldn’t listen to any proposition and everything had to be done their way. It ended up usually in waste of time and slide in project delivery. I do have to admit that some of them took all the blame and did extra hours to work out the problem.

Extreme Flexibility

Flexibility and openness.
This one is a brother to good listening skills. I have worked with a tech lead whose openness and flexibility lead to many great technical discussion with entire team and brilliant ideas.

Decision MakerAbility to make a decisions in difficult moments and change any decision if necessary.
As much as flexible and opened team leader can be, she/he always needs to make a decisions when it’s necessary. All the discussion we had as a team about technical and non technical issues on a project will never end if someone did not put his feet down at some point.

Point out mistakes and appreciate good job in person.
When talking to a bigger forum or entire team should not discuss individual success or mistakes. Taping someone in a back in front of the entire team will only tell others that they have not worked hard enough to deserve it. Same with criticising anyone, will make everybody else on a team feel better then the one poor geek that got earfuls. All that destroys team spirit and integrity.Motivator

Be good motivator.
People need motivation. I do. If there is no other driver in the team at least team leader should inspire and motivate.

VisionHave vision and approach things with passion.
Passion works like a motivation sling. It gives extra boost to entire team if there is at least one person that is so passionate about the tasks that team is facing. I’m damn convinced that at least team lead should be that person.

Presence and appearance.

Technical skills.
Last on this list but equally important. I was working with team leaders that were making bad decisions because they lacked technical skills. They were also to proud to listen to the team and take suggestions on a board. It ended in a massive disaster.

I’m sure this is not the complete set. It contains some of the important factors I could think of and I’m looking for in a leaders. You are more then welcome to complete this set in comments.

The list is not in any specific order. I believe all the points are very important and you can’t have great team leader without all the skills. I am also aware that in real life this will be far away from true. Even great leaders in the world history had their flaws. After all we’re all humans 🙂

Cheers, Greg

3 thoughts on “Napoleon of technical leaders

  1. Hi Greg,

    I find your post really interesting, because usually all the leadership tips go around being the same points, except that in your point “Point out mistakes and appreciate good job in person” you were unique (at least to my experience).
    isn’t competition always considered as a good thing? what if you can appreciate your team member in a positive way without being negative to others? and wouldn’t be more supportive to acknowledge him in front of others? humans like to be mentioned in public don’t they? what do you think?

  2. Hi Emad
    I think that when there is a team there is one goal and everyone in the team is working to achieve it. Success of the project depends on team integrity.
    Consider situation like this. In the morning standup (or actually any other meting) team leader is saying “Dear all. Yesterday Greg stayed up late and fixed the blabla problem. I think he did a great job.”. Now, Greg is happy as he get the tap in the shoulder. Now what about other team members. If I’m GregSecond and I just heard that I’m thinking that I’m not doing good job, or maybe not doing it well enough. I will care less on what I’m doing as I am not getting appreciated. Maybe worse things could happen like, me GregSecond hate Greg now because he is such a arse and stays up late.
    I think that if things like that happen and team leader REALLY a lot would like to point out someone afford, it should be on a team level. Or at least say something good about everyone.
    I do agree with you. People like to be mentioned in public. But team is not a SOLO gig.

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