How to Lead a Team

January 05, 2024

Leadership is a critical component in the success of any team, particularly in the dynamic and collaborative environment of software engineering. Leadership is not just about managing tasks but involves a nuanced understanding of people, technology, and the delicate balance between the two. This blog post delves into the various facets of leadership, offering insights and lessons that can be applied in any team setting.

2024 01 05

The Dual Roles of Leadership

We distinguishes between two key leadership roles: the Manager and the Tech Lead (TL). The Manager focuses on people, nurturing the team's performance, productivity, and happiness. In contrast, the TL oversees the technical aspects of projects, including technology decisions, architecture, and general project management. Sometimes, a Tech Lead Manager (TLM) might assume both roles, especially in smaller teams.

The Engineering Manager

Our approach to engineering management is unique. Rather than hiring managers without a background in software engineering, We prefers managers with an engineering pedigree. This enables them to understand the technical challenges their teams face and align the team's output with the company's business needs. The role of an engineering manager is complex, often requiring them to navigate the conflicting needs of the business and the team.

The Tech Lead

The TL is the technical heart of the team, often working alongside the manager to ensure optimal staff allocation and project progress. TLs, who are often also individual contributors, face the challenge of balancing hands-on work with the delegation of tasks to grow their team's capabilities.

The Tech Lead Manager

On smaller or nascent teams, a TLM handles both the technical and people aspects of the team. This role is often a stepping stone for individual contributors moving into leadership, necessitating a blend of technical prowess and people management skills.

Beyond Traditional Management: Influencing Without Authority

One of the most effective leadership skills is the ability to influence without authority. This skill is about getting people outside of your immediate team to collaborate and contribute to your objectives. It's about aligning others with your vision and goals, often without direct managerial control over them.

Transitioning from Individual Contributor to Leader

Many engineers find themselves transitioning into leadership roles, sometimes unintentionally. This shift requires a mindset change – from doing to enabling. The key is not to coerce but to motivate, guide, and support your team. We emphasizes servant leadership, where the leader's primary role is to serve the team, clearing obstacles and providing guidance.

Embracing Failure as a Learning Tool

Our culture encourages risk-taking, accepting that failure is an integral part of innovation. The emphasis is on learning from failures rather than assigning blame. This approach fosters a safe environment for experimentation and growth.

Antipatterns in Management

Avoid common management pitfalls such as hiring yes-men, ignoring low performers, or focusing solely on technical aspects while neglecting human issues. These practices can undermine team morale and productivity.

Positive Leadership Patterns

Effective leaders often demonstrate humility, respect, trust, and the ability to lose their ego. They act as catalysts and mediators, enabling their teams to perform at their best. They focus on setting clear goals, being honest, and tracking team happiness.

People Are Like Plants

A key takeaway is that each team member, like a plant, has unique needs. A successful leader recognizes these needs and adapts their leadership style accordingly.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Motivating a team goes beyond extrinsic rewards like salaries or bonuses. It involves fostering a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


Effective team leadership goes beyond traditional management. It involves a balanced focus on people and technology, an understanding of individual needs, and fostering an environment of trust and growth. Whether you're a manager, a tech lead, or a TLM, the principles of humility, respect, and trust are universal pillars for successful leadership.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn