In my observation, good team leads are able to wear a bit of engineering management, a bit of product management and a bit of a developer hat. The top 3 qualities of great team leads I’ve seen:
1. Prioritises ruthlessly and knows how to say no. Limiting work in progress and finishing what people and the team started are key to a high-performing team. Great team leads do this via clear prioritisation and using the prioritisation principles to tactfully say no to stakeholders.
2. Unblocks the team and team members. When someone on the team is stuck, they notice and help. Either by pairing or more often, by advising or connecting with others, who can help efficiently.
3. Great mentors and leading by example. Team leads are often the one of the most experienced developers on the team. And just like good developers are usually great and approachable mentors, they mentor and coach team members day by day, helping them get better. They also lead by example and pull their weight.
You can really tell who a great team lead is during a challenging project and stressful situations and how they help the team overcome this, staying sane and giving most of the credit to the team members upon success.
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