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Tech lead versus team lead

Leadership
Handling Promotion
Motivation
Delegate
Hiring

6 December, 2017

At a tech company of around 200 people, a team lead of a team of four wanted to go back to being a full-time individual contributor

Problem

One of my employees had spent over a year leading a team of first two, then three and finally four people. The department was test automation and the employee was displeased with his time spent on management and leadership duties as opposed to technical individual contributions. As the team grew the team lead's responsibilities also grew, and I had noticed that the quality of his leadership had been gradually decreasing.

Actions taken

I asked the team lead to list out the parts of his leadership role he was not particularly interested in. Some of the items mentioned were hiring, onboarding, managing the work queue and dealing with personal issues. As this was a relatively small team, we transitioned some of these responsibilities to someone else in the team who wasn't as technically advanced but had great people skills. He was willing to work through personal issues, maintain the work queue and spend time onboarding new employees.

Lessons learned

Very often, the most technically advanced employee may not be the best team lead. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to lead others. Leadership is about working through problems when the going gets tough and some people prefer to stick to technical problems. Consider having a separate "team lead" and "tech lead" within a team of 5-10 people. This will help to ensure that personnel issues are addressed as well as the technical direction of the team.


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