Technical Leadership

Are You a Conscious Technical Leader?

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How many times did you hear a story about a good software developer, whose performance went down after getting promoted into a technical leader role? Unable to focus on either of the duties, frustrating himself and the team, he ended up backing out of the position. Or, alternatively, he kept running the team, but was generating frequent issues with project delivery or employee attrition.

Sounds familiar? It seems to occur much too often in the IT world. Companies often end up losing a good developer for a weak manager. That’s why I believe we need more Conscious Technical Leaders.

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A Conscious Technical Leader is someone who was able to make the mind shift after transitioning from a developer’s role. Someone who understands the difference in priorities and expectations, and was able to change their behavior to fit the new situation.

In my opinion, every development team needs a Conscious Technical Leader in order to be fully empowered, to operate in the most effective way, keeping both customers and employees satisfied. Even when it’s not a formal position, like in self-organizing agile teams – most of them could still benefit by having someone with these traits on board.

But what does it really mean in practice? In my opinion, you can call yourself a Conscious Technical Leader when:

  1. You understand that you’re not just a senior developer anymore.
  2. You put the needs of your employees as high as your own.
  3. You understand that leading is not the same as giving orders.
  4. You are focused on increasing your leadership skills and growing in that direction.
  5. You see employee satisfaction and engagement as a high priority, even during difficult times.
  6. You prefer to leave the most interesting technical tasks to your people rather than coding them yourself.
  7. You seek mentors among more experienced people in this role.
  8. You are able to identify the most important soft skills that you need to improve.
  9. You allow your team members to participate in decision making.
  10. You limit the time you spend on technical tasks to make enough space for leader’s duties – and not the other way around.
  11. You actively seek opportunities to help your employees, rather than having them apply and wait.
  12. You know you don’t have all the answers, and you understand you don’t need to have.

Would you add anything to the above list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Are You a Conscious Technical Leader?

  1. Osiris Martinez says:

    I haven’t had to hear of the stories from others… I know of at least 7 people that were given opportunities to step into management roles, only to find out that it wasn’t for them, or to have performed rather poorly in the role, to the point that they were guided out of the role and back into an individual performer role.

    I wouldn’t blame them… I would blame the individual that permitted the unprepared, or un-qualified, to have stepped into such a role. It is the hiring manager’s DUTY, to ensure the success of those that they promote into a position of management. It is their RESPONSIBILITY, to provide the guidance, mentorship, and instruction, that’s necessary to ensure that the new manager succeeds.

    Therefore, I posit, that not only did the new manager #fail at their role, but the hiring manager #failed as well. Two birds with one stone… both of them should have been taken out. Their organizations would likely have been all the better for it.

  2. Osiris Martinez says:

    I’ll add… these are excellent recommendations. The list of 1-12 is gold. Great work and thought leadership!

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