What is the role of a team leader in software development?

date: 16 November 2020
reading time: 6 min

The specific role of a team leader in software development may vary between different companies. Sometimes a team leader is simultaneously the scrum master or a software architect.

In some software development companies, he or she may also be the link between the development team and the project manager, while other organisations may employ a more flat structure, where all team members communicate with each other on equal terms. But there are, of course, some common denominators which distinguish this position from other developer roles.


10 most common responsibilities of a team leader

  1. Set up clear standards and procedures of development
    Software development should always be run within a certain framework of standards and procedures that have been set up by the team leader, in order to keep the code clean and the process in check. Having a structured and well-organised setup prevents chaos and allows any new team members to be onboarded quickly and smoothly. And, of course, it improves the quality of the final product.
  2. Introduce clear instructions on a daily basis
    A team leader sets the direction for development on the technical level. Giving instructions – and doing this in the right manner – is an important responsibility. Instructions should be clear and voiced in a polite tone, followed by a constructive explanation, whenever needed. A leader also needs to ensure that the business context of a project, along with the client’s requirements, are acknowledged and understood by the whole team, and then translated into individual expectations for each team member.
  3. Prevent issues from arising and seek new business opportunities
    A good team leader is also a skilled risk analyst when it comes to technical issues, and has a solid plan for mitigating problems. His or her job is to constantly conduct detailed assessments, in order to make the right decisions, prevent potential problems from coming up, solve emerging ones, and last but not least – detect business opportunities and trends that may be beneficial to the project. However, even the best team leaders aren’t necessarily experts in everything. They just need to have the ability to make good use of team resources and expertise and know when some external help may be needed.
  4. Motivate the team and create a good atmosphere for constructive feedback
    It’s up to the leader to get the team engaged and focused on the project. Daily positive motivation, counteracting possible sources of demotivation, and appreciating the effort that people put into their jobs should be intertwined with constructive criticism. And this needs to go both ways – the team cannot be afraid to voice their opinions or make suggestions. And speaking of the latter, it’s crucial for a good leader to actually listen to this feedback. Drawing valid conclusions and acting on them should be the natural next steps.
  5. Work on team building and foster good communication between team members
    A big part of the problem-solving approach is making sure that people can communicate with each other effectively and honestly – whether they are working together onsite or remotely. Because being unclear or imprecise, hiding potential issues and holding grudges can hinder the team’s daily activities and disrupt the entire development process. A friendly and open atmosphere of collaboration can be fostered by a leader not only in the daily work routine, but also in various team-building activities – from having a longer lunch together or playing a game during a break, to going on a corporate retreat. It’s the leader’s job to initiate things like this, from time to time.
  6. Track progress
    A leader knows exactly where the team is in the development process at any given moment. Daily stand-up meetings allow him or her to know exactly what every team member is working on, and what obstacles they have to overcome in order to move forward flawlessly (speaking of the latter, part of a leader’s job is to evaluate whether a team can solve these problems relatively easily or if some internal reshuffling or external help may be needed). If a client or someone from management wants to know about any details – the team leader would be the best person to ask.
  7. Create and introduce reports
    Based on the detailed information that they thoroughly track, team leaders are able to create reports that can be introduced to project managers, clients and other decision makers, so they can act on these insights. Leaders need to know how all the data is gathered and for what purpose, and be able to select and present only the most relevant information. Moreover, team leaders also have to be skilled at making assessments, which is usually a good starting point for conducting risk analyses or for making further decisions.
  8. Onboard new members
    Whenever a new addition to the team shows up, a leader is responsible for the onboarding process, making sure that they have everything they need, including: a proper workspace with the right equipment, a set of accounts and access to the necessary resources and tools, and so on. They should also provide them with essential training for the job. Plus, an important part of a leader’s job is to assess whether a new person is a good addition to the team – both during the recruitment stage and later on, in the work evaluation process.
  9. Ensure that the team has appropriate technical competencies
    Clients want to be provided with a certain set of competencies. A team leader’s role is to make sure that they are available, regardless of any HR-related fluctuations within a team. This can be done through a number of initiatives, e.g., by hiring new experts, coaching and mentoring, consultations, and providing training whenever a knowledge gap has been identified.
  10. Be consistent in values and actions
    There cannot be any discrepancy between what’s being said and what’s being done. A team leader has to be consistent in the values that the company holds, the methods used and the actions taken. This is strongly associated with maintaining a good balance between the interests of all parties involved in the cooperation, since consistency allows a team leader to foster development towards mutual success.


Wrap-up

Team leaders have a lot of responsibilities but not every task has to be completed by the team leader personally. Leaders should always make sure that the job gets done, take initiative and follow up with the right people.

The benefits of having a good team leader are not to be underestimated. Among other things, they involve:

  • increased engagement,
  • higher chances of success,
  • better control over the project,
  • lower organisational inertia,
  • smoother reactions to changes,
  • operating in a more orderly fashion,
  • more efficient and faster delivery,
  • better quality results.

It is certainly worth the effort to select the right person for the position, since it will definitely pay off in the development process. And if you’re looking for some tools helpful tools to lead a fully remote team look here.

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