Are You a Software Developer -- or a Leader?: Page 2

Managing a software development team is about more than technical expertise.
Posted September 19, 2011

Eric Spiegel

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Those feelings caused by such experiences are projected on the new manager, immediately putting them at a disadvantage. Plus, developers are typically pretty darn smart and think if they were just left alone to crank out code, all problems will be solved.

A Thorny Situation

Well, Mr. Frown Face was projecting serious daggers my way.

We had a few run-ins where he would push back on something I was asking him to do. What bugged me the most was that he wasn’t professional about it. Instead of proposing useful solutions he would make sarcastic remarks or just snicker when I made a suggestion.

It became very apparent why Mr. Frown Face was not considered good project manager material.

The issue with him continued until one night I was awakened by a call from him. He was in a panic because the on-call person had contacted him about a module he developed that seemed to have brought down the whole production system. They had spent hours trying to figure it out and were at a loss.

We got on a conference call and I took them through every step of the production process, eventually finding one flag that was set incorrectly. The code was recompiled with an emergency patch and production finished – although later than our service level agreement required.

The next afternoon, my manager Daryl came to see me to find out what happened. I explained what the problem was and how it was fixed, but never called out Mr. Frown Face. I said it was my fault for not reviewing the integration test plan more closely.

Mr. Frown Face came to see me before leaving that day. He had overheard the conversation with Daryl in my cube and wanted to thank me for not pinning the blame on him. He left as Mr. Smiley Face and from then on was much more receptive to my guidance.

What I have learned over the years is that leadership has little to do with technical expertise. More important leadership traits are fairness, integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, competence and an ability to communicate with your team, management, customers and sometimes the rest of the outside world.

Not every developer is cut out to be a leader. And some developers are much better suited to be a leader instead of writing code.

Most important, you don’t have to be in management to lead. Think about your actions and look for opportunities to show leadership every day. Even when you aren’t happy with management decisions, don’t hold it inside or worse, undermine your manager with negative comments behind their back. Instead be forthcoming with your concerns and come up with ideas that will lead to solutions.

Before you know it you might be tapped for a management position. Will you be ready?

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Tags: developer, programmers, IT management, software developer, programmer salary

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