I love programming, I love leading great software development projects and I love coding in general says Peter Decaprio.
However, there are many people who can write better code than me, but I consider myself a good leader. The leadership aspect is what separates the men from the boys (or girls). It’s not how much you know or how good you are at certain technical topics that make you a great leader. More importantly, it’s your ability to influence other developers to work as part of an efficient team towards achieving common goals.
This article is intended for those lucky enough to have both passions – development and leadership – so therefore it will focus on advice related specifically to people who want to improve their abilities as leaders of software developers. Of course, not all of the devices are limited to specifically being used in this part of your work.
I have not come up with these tips by myself, they are simply lessons that I have learned over the years both from my own experiences and based on what others have taught me – namely many great managers who believed in me during my career. So, without further ado let’s get started!
These are most relevant to developers who want to become better leaders
1: You cannot do it alone
There is no leader who can lead a project entirely by themselves. To be good at leading people you need to collaborate closely with them, therefore you need to communicate clearly and strike a balance between trying to do everything yourself and doing nothing yourself says Peter Decaprio.
This is especially difficult when you are a lead developer. In fact, it’s an impossible endeavor, if you do everything yourself you will fall behind your other responsibilities and become less valuable to your team or project. On the other hand, if you do nothing at all then people will notice how little work is getting done by themselves and may get a bit nervous about the whole thing – nobody likes an idle leader even though sometimes that might be exactly what’s needed.
2: Your attitude speaks louder than your words
This sounds somewhat cliché but it’s true. Non-verbal communication can have a stronger impact on people than what you say. Of course, this varies from person to person so it would require some individual tailoring. Which behaviors to use in response to different people.
This is especially true in team meetings, even if an individual developer disagrees with something. That you are saying they will still feel more inclined to follow your direction. If the whole meeting was conducted in a calm and professional manner. However, being right there is no point in leading others if nobody is following or listening to you. Being able to adjust your non-verbal communication based on whom you are interacting with. Can have a tremendous impact on how people react to what you say.
3: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
Don’t be afraid of sticking to old ways of doing things just because someone came up with a new idea. Unless you have evidence that the new way is significantly better than the old one (or that the old way was broken).
Remember: “Perfect is the enemy of good”. Don’t get too excited and throw everything away to start doing things in a completely new fashion. More often than not, people will be more productive with the tools and methods. They know well rather than trying out something new. And potentially getting worse results just because it’s different. Even if you are ultimately proven right, remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Things might look great when you try them for 10 minutes. But when you have to use them every day then they might turn into something else.
4: The only constant is change
Technology is in a constant race against time. Which means that even if your project goes live in 5 years’ time. You can bet that 5 years from now they will have different requirements. For what it needs to have explains Peter Decaprio. We might need to adapt our code drastically, transform the design completely, or something else entirely. But if we don’t do this then the project will quickly become obsolete and unloved by everyone involved with it.
5: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard
Even though some individuals are blessed with exceptional abilities of one kind or another. Chances are high that you will always be better off focusing on how hard you work rather than trying to make up for lack of ability through effort. I’m not denying that there is such a thing as natural ability. And certainly natural predispositions towards certain types of problems; however, most people who have achieved great things had to put a lot of effort into their work. Before they became as successful as they are today.
Taking on leadership responsibilities is not easy, but it’s worth the effort says Peter Decaprio. Not only it will help you grow personally but you can also have a positive impact on your team members. While making an impact in your project or company.
Like any other skill it requires some practice, so don’t get discouraged if you find yourself struggling at first. Keep practicing and over time you will become more confident about your abilities to lead others. Also, remember that there is no such thing as perfect leadership. Even if someone leads millions of people they still make mistakes every day. The important part is to learn from those mistakes and improve upon them (or avoid them completely).