Are you a software engineering team lead?

If you are a team lead or a mentor to other software engineers. Than this article is for you. Even though, I have never been a team lead or a chief architect or a mentor I have seen friends and colleagues really get crushed under the emotional pressure of being a lead. You have to care for your team’s mental health, care about the opinions of the team, become the voice of the team, provide mentorship, take responsibility all the while promising perfection with impossible due dates. You have to be an expert in handling stress and due dates with grace and compassion for all. Here are a few necessary things you should remember.

Recognize that you are dealing with more stress

As you soon as you realize that you are dealing with more stress than others and that your work requires more emotional energy. You will decide to treat yourself with more compassion. Because even though there could be genius coders in your team who are working day and night to bring the project to fruition. It is your voice that will represent this. It is your neck that is on the line. It is you who will be mostly responsible. Take care of your emotional energy. Go out for a drink with your friends. Do not hang around people who give you more stress. Do things that relaxes you like photography or painting. Being with nature can also ease you. Just sitting alone in a park bench can sometimes do wonders.

Recognize it’s OK to not be OK

You cannot be available all the time and its fine. Nothing will happen. Understand that you are not Jesus or superman/woman but a normal person with needs and wants and you can only do so much. Understand that your team will be fine even if you miss out on something or couldn’t take that phone call. Even if an important presentation did not go right understand that it will be alright. You cannot be perfect all the time, things will not go smoothly all the time and its fine. Your reputation will not be affected by a few mishaps. You cannot answer to everyone on slack all the time. You cannot answer phone calls all the time. But your career will be fine.

The price of perfectionism

The price that you pay for being a perfectionist can really drain your emotional energy. Imagine being a team lead and being extremely detail oriented while the rest of your team members are not. So if you are a perfectionist and many of your team members are not so much. What will happen is that you will be pulling your own hair. Recognize that perfectionism is not always a good thing. Perfectionist people can suffer from all kinds of mental health issues, depression, procrastination, OCD etc. Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. You need non perfectionist people in the team who can just jump into any situation. You need people in the team who are not obsessing over a margin or padding. Recognize that people can be brilliant in their own ways.

If things get out of hand

If things get out of hand, or if you think you cannot handle being a team lead. You can request some kind of training. Companies are always willing to provide training and support. Even if your company does not provide such things there is a lot that you can find online sometimes for free and sometimes for a small fee. If everyone in your team is unhappy with you. Face it, you are doing something wrong. Nothing wrong with admitting that you are wrong. Being compassionate all the time can be extremely stressful and difficult. There are excellent training and resources available. Take advantage of it all. Read books about team psychology. A good leader can produce great results.

Having Fun

Sometimes you do need to have some fun with your team. Take everyone out for coffee or lunch or a coding seminar. Show them that you are not some dull boring robot with deadlines. I know many people are advised to not be friends with co-workers. Your boss is not your friend they say. But if you are going to spend half of your day with your co-workers, your team members etc and if your job is all about maintaining a well functioning team. It is a good idea to at least know your team and become friendly with them. You must show that your team members are valued and respected. Even if you are working remotely you can still show that you are not boring. Add extra emojis to your slack group. Take a profile pic with your dog. Ask everyone about their day. Play online games with your co-workers. People need to at least enjoy peer programming with you and you can show that you are an easy person to get along with even if you are remote.


Many coding teams can have very poor communication because there can be foreigners in the team or some people can simply be poor communicators. Many non English speaking foreigners are great coders but accents and English language barriers can create a communication issue. I have always taken notes which helped and you should encourage your team members to take notes which will remove many barriers. As a team leader you do not only have to communicate properly but also effectively. If your team members are asking too many questions after you say anything. It is a good thing that they are asking questions but it can be a red signal which shows that you are not communicating properly. By all means remove this barrier. There are many books on how to communicate effectively and there are many seminars and trainings on communication. Being an effective communicator is not only important for your job but it is also necessary for your life. Not all seminars you attend need to be about technology or coding. Some seminars can really improve your leadership skills and even make you a better person.

Attend this seminar with me, hosted by Harvard Business Review:

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