How to Become a Software Development Team Leader

The natural progression of a software developer is into a software development team leader role. Is this what you want to do? Do you have a desire to lead a team of software developers, but you’re not sure how? Have a read of some tips in this article to get more of an idea on how you can make this career transition.

What Is A Software Team Leader Responsible For?

Let’s start by having a look at the roles and responsibilities of a software development team leader. It’s different from a software developer. The team leader is responsible for making sure the team perform their tasks, meet deadlines (as best as they can), make decisions, delegate within the team, and communicate with other managers.

They may not do a lot of actual development work. This will depend on the team and the organisation, but a software development team leader doesn’t usually do a lot of the coding themselves. They are usually pretty busy with other tasks such as tracking work and communicating with the other managers (other team leaders, project managers, etc).

So, how do you actually take the next step and become a software team leader?

1. Be The Best Developer You Can Be

The first people chosen as candidates for a software development team leader role are usually the developers. Developers need to show that they are actually good at what they do. More than just competent, they need to stand out.

You need to be the person in the team that stands out from the others. You should be the one that everyone comes to for advice and help with their problems. If this isn’t you now, then work on your skills and knowledge and try to become that person.

2. Express An Interest In A Leader Role

Team leader roles don’t just get handed out blindly. You need more than just good development skills to become a team leader. Your manager and anyone else involved should know that you are interested in a team leader role. You can tell them when you have discussions with them about your career path and progression, or mention it to the HR department during any reviews that you have.

When a software development team leader position becomes available, mention it to your manager (or the manager of the new position). Let them know that you’re interested. This will allow you to get feedback, and also to put your name in their head when they are deciding how to fill the role.

3. Work On Required Skills

The skills required for a team leader are more than just awesome development skills – though they certainly help!

A software development team leader will need to know how to communicate with other people – other team leaders, managers, project managers, and clients. The communication skills will need to be practiced and learnt over time. Many developers don’t initially have the communication skills needed, but if you’re looking to get into a team leader role, then communication skills are a must.

Delegation is another skill that is needed. When you move into a team leader role, you’ll need to learn how to pass the work on to members of your team. This includes a mix of knowing what your team is doing, and knowing their abilities. Juggling the priority of your team’s work is another part of delegation and team leadership.

4. Understand The Big Picture

As a software development team leader, you’ll need to understand the “why” behind a lot of what the company does. This will help when it comes down to working on IT projects, hiring staff, and other decisions made by the company. It will make it easier to speak to other team leaders and managers, and work out how your team and their work contributes to the bigger picture and the vision of the company. If it’s a client that your team is developing for, understanding their business and their needs is beneficial.

5. Help Your Team Be Successful

A team leader should have a desire for their team to be successful. Management of this team will involve helping them out when they are stuck. While you could help them when it comes to technical skills, the real part of this role is helping get past any roadblocks they might have within the organisation.

Making decisions for the team, speaking to other people to gather requirements, asking other teams to get tasks done – these kinds of tasks are ones that are better suited to a software development team leader. With you doing these things for your team, it will help them be more successful and effective with their own work.

6. Be Approachable

Becoming a good team leader involves being an approachable person. This involves your attitude as well as your behaviour.

You should try to remain positive and helpful to others when you do your job. This will make you more approachable by both your own team members, and other people in the organisation. The company performs best when everyone is working well together, and you can help this by having a positive attitude and helping people do their job.

Your behaviour also helps to be more approachable. Don’t sit at your desk with headphones on – this makes you seem unapproachable and closed off. Learn to greet people and give them attention when they approach your desk. Look at them and stop what you’re doing. This might seem difficult, but in the bigger picture, it’s more helpful.

7. Stay Calm

A software team leader should stay calm, especially when things go wrong. Servers can crash, deadlines can be missed, data can be lost and all other kinds of problems can happen. As a team leader, you should be able to stay calm in this time, work out how to resolve the problem, or at least who to talk to to get it resolved. This may be part of your behavior already – if it isn’t learn how to be more calm. Calmness means better decisions, as you’re in a better frame of mind to be able to make the right choice.