The general expectations that an organisation would have from a tech lead would be to:
- Make critical technical decisions
- Moderate dev huddles
- Choose an appropriate tech stack for the project
- Solve any confusions that developers may have, explaining to them the pros and cons
- Be accountable for delivery (though the whole team should be)
and so on and so forth.
These comprise the technical aspect/dimension of a tech lead. But what about the leadership aspect? What does a team expect from them? Is it true that the leadership qualities of a TL can significantly improve the productivity of a team? Why are some teams slacking off and others full of energy all the time?
I have worked in a team where the TL would pitch in only when there was a crisis or any analytical decision had to be taken. In that case, there was a disconnect between the TL and the team. There were individual contributors and performers, but nobody was a part of anything.
I have also worked in a team where the TL used to have one-on-one conversations every once in awhile. What happened during these conversations? How did it help the team? By encouraging a person to keep learning and sharing their knowledge and giving feedback regularly. He made sure that every person in the team was valuable and their contribution was crucial for successful functioning of the team. Everyone in the team felt that their efforts were being recognized; they felt that they ‘belonged’ to the team. In such a team, there’s no external motivation required; it comes naturally from within. Of course, this team was more productive and energetic.
Technical superiority vs Leadership quality
Now that we have described the 2 facets of a tech lead, what happens when there is a clash between these 2 facets, i.e, the technical superiority vs the leadership quality?
One day, we were having a dev huddle, discussing a technical block that a dev pair was facing. Different people suggested different ideas to solve it. One dev was talking about a tool that would help us surpass the block. Some of us knew about it, some of us did not. I was totally inspired when the TL asked, “What is that new tool? I do not know about it. Can you please explain it to us?”. I feel it takes a lot of courage to say, “I don’t know”. I was taken aback by this outright honesty because, while pairing with other developers, I have observed that sometimes they are reluctant to listen to their pair’s view, let alone agree that their pair’s solution is better. This technical modesty and leadership attitude exhibited by the TL set an example to us to listen to each other and weigh the pros and cons before taking a decision. This way everyone feels safe to ask questions and there are no silos in the team; they give their 100% and there is no place for diffused responsibility.
Are we thinking as a team?
How do we make sure that we think as a team? It’s so simple. It is by sharing knowledge. Our TL used to proudly say, “If tomorrow I’m removed from the team, the functioning/progress of the team should remain undisturbed”. We all learnt more and shared more. This generous sharing of knowledge assured that everyone was on the same page and there were no knowledge pockets in the team.
Setting the basics right
Be it professional life or personal life, we almost always take examples from our elders. Considering a TL to be that elder/senior person in the team, it is imperative for them to set the right examples to the team through their actions. It is similar to setting the foundation strong.
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Sometimes there are discussions about which is a better tech stack for a particular problem or how to go about picking up new skills. We’d all love to know different perspectives from the tech community about their work, or what’s happening in the industry, programming or just everyday life. So we’re welcoming techies who like to express their thoughts and views and ideas to contribute to our blog and make it a uniquely enriching experience for the community.
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This post was originally published on Medium.
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