In software development, as in any other business endeavor, even the most competent team of professionals will struggle without strong leadership. One person must be responsible for maintaining the long-term vision and determining the steps needed two achieve it. Software development team leads fulfill this role.
In the sections below, we explore more about team lead roles and responsibilities in software development, including the difference between a team leader and a manager, the importance of team leadership to the overall business, and how to hire a software team lead. But first, let’s answer the question, what does a dev team lead do?
What Is the Role of a Team Leader in Software Development?
In the simplest terms, a software development team leader leads the team in developing software. These professionals typically rise to the role of team leader after holding positions as a developer, QA tester, product manager, or other software development role. Their goal is to successfully deliver the requested product that meets all acceptance criteria. The software development team leader may perform some or all of the following roles.
Project manager. Understands the project requirements and ensures that team members perform the right functions to meet them. Tracks all activities related to the project, including tasks, timelines, and team member roles. May be responsible for multiple projects at one time.
Problem solver. Looks ahead to determine potential obstacles and finds ways to work around them. Resolves issues that may arise due to miscommunication or other impediments.
Communicator. Ensures that all stakeholders are fully informed about the progress of each project. Communicates regularly with information, updates, and challenges.
Mentor. Guides team members to help them be successful and advance in their careers. Shares good habits and practices to ensure high-quality output.
Technical expert. Understands the technical requirements for each project as well as the technical tools needed to fulfill them. Fills in as a developer in the event of staffing shortages.
Reviewer. Evaluates deliverables and provides suggestions for improvement. Creates a documentation process, risk log, and any other reporting needed. Participates in review meetings to give updates to stakeholders.
You may have noticed that these roles fall into three main categories. Project management software provider LinearB labels them as developer, architect, and coach. In the developer role, the team lead uses their technical skills to direct and participate in the team’s primary functions. In the architect role, the team lead uses higher-level skills to direct all parts of the project. In the coach role, the team lead provides support to the team members.
Software Team Lead vs Manager
The difference between a software team lead and a manager is that the team lead just leads one team, while the manager may have multiple teams reporting to them. Managers typically need to have a broader understanding of how each team contributes to the business and may make decisions about overall project direction, whereas the team lead’s authority is limited to running the project on a day-to-day basis. Neither role is more or less important, but the manager role is typically more comprehensive.
In both roles, professionals must combine hard and soft skills. Managers must understand high-level business concepts. Team leads must understand technical concepts. But they must also both have good people and communication skills to motivate and support those they lead. The following video highlights empathy, a key aspect of people skills.
The Importance of Effective Team Leadership
Team leadership is critical for the smooth functioning of any company. Team leaders take control of teams to execute the mission and vision of the company. Team leaders provide a variety of benefits to the company and upper management through the following responsibilities.
- Execute critical initiatives and keep them on track
- Ensure that the company is delivering quality products and services
- Provide support to valuable employees, ensuring that they stay on with the company
- Make low-level decisions, enabling higher-level leaders to focus on broader matters
- Communicate with all stakeholders, supporting transparency and a free flow of information
- Report problems to higher-level leaders and get resources and support to resolve them
- Help to deploy new initiatives and procedures
Hiring a Development Team Lead
Often, team leaders emerge naturally from teams already in place within your company. Still, it is important to fully vet even team members who may have been with you for a number of years. It is even more important to vet applicants from outside the company who may be unfamiliar with your processes and culture. The following list of questions can serve as a starting point to help you fill software team lead jobs.
Software development team lead interview questions:
- What is your interest in this role and this company?
- What are your technical experience and skills?
- What is your experience in designing and building enterprise-level software?
- What is your expertise in Microsoft .NET technologies?
- What software development methodologies do you have experience in?
- What is your education?
- Do you have any management experience?
- What is your experience in taking responsibility for an entire software development project?
- Please describe your communication style and how you keep others updated on project progress.
- How do you manage your time?
- How do you understand the success of software development projects within the context of business success?
- What is your experience in helping others reach their professional goals?
The software development team lead salary you can expect to pay is somewhere between $150K and $190K. The range will differ depending on your company and location. Another important factor in hiring is a software development lead job description, which must be targeted specifically to the skills and qualities you want to hire.
A Mission-Critical Role
As we’ve seen, team lead roles and responsibilities in software development are important to understand and nurture. Companies that take this role seriously and undertake a rigorous hiring process end up with valuable professionals that help them meet their goals and carry out their mission.