2006-10-28 00:00:00

Technical leadership advice

Many of my younger colleagues often ask about what some of the most important leadership aspects are for technical managers like team leads or architects. There are no hard and fast rules but here are some things I’ve learned over the years:

  • Make Decisions. This is one of the most important aspects of leadership — just making a decision and not analyzing for weeks or months. No amount of evidence or information will ever “be enough” and at some point you’ll need to make a decision. Your team can see if you are timid or if you take risks. Leadership is about decision making and if your decision making skills or risk taking ability are limited, don’t bother trying to lead. I’ve seen many architects and so-called “team leads” that try to get their bosses to make their decisions for them so they don’t get in trouble for making “the wrong ones”. Big mistake.
  • Lead by Example. Leadership is about direction and if you want to lead, you’ll need to make sure you take charge and establish that you know where you want to go. But, be prepared to demonstrate that you do what you ask your team to do. If you ask everyone else to do something but don’t do it yourself, your team will lose respect.
  • Be transparent. You work with bright people and although they may not be your equals in experience or knowledge, they will know when you are making decisions based on whim or reason. If you can’t explain your decisions in a way that your team can comprehend then you’re not a good leader.
  • Mentor. Good leaders create the next group of leaders, not just bark orders. If you’re not regularly mentoring and training, you’re not doing your job. And, if you mentor well you can let your team make many of the decisions without you and you’ll be able to trust that their decisions will be as good as yours.
  • Be inclusive. You’re the leader and can make all the decisions and everyone knows that. But, if you’re not including input from everyone you’re losing valuable data and a chance to build a cohesive team.
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