7 Leadership Skills for Junior Developers: How To Prepare for a Senior Role
Do you want to become a senior developer?
It’s not only about being good at coding; there are many other skills that will help you get to the next level.
To be successful in your career, it is important to learn how to lead.
Leadership is about communicating effectively and inspiring others while working toward the shared goal of building quality software.
Leadership skills are essential for any aspiring senior software developer. You’ll need them to lead your team, manage projects, and get ahead in your field.
Becoming a leader can seem like an impossible challenge at first, but it’s never too early to prepare for success.
To prepare for a leadership role, it’s important to work on those skills right now. You have to know how to work with others, how to take responsibility, and how to share your knowledge for the benefit of the entire team.
In this article, we’ll look at seven skills that will help you become a better leader and ultimately earn you a senior developer role.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Start with yourself. Be accountable for your own actions and behaviors.
Chances are that you are working on many work items or tasks at a time. It’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing. Take time at the end of each day or week to reflect on your accomplishments and identify what went well and any challenges that need work.
If there’s work that got stuck in progress, follow up with your team to discuss what needs to happen next. That shows that you are committed to your work and take responsibility for what you do.
Hold yourself accountable by setting goals, following up with them regularly, measuring your progress against those goals, and taking action to correct any course corrections in order to meet the goal.
Action Step: Start your day by writing the most important goal for that day. At the end of each day, make sure you’ve completed that goal. If not, identify what got in your way and either get back on track or add a new task to help you meet that goal for tomorrow’s list. Remember not to be too hard on yourself because it’s inevitable that we won’t always be able to meet our goals.
If there is a problem, take action without waiting for someone else to fix it. Don’t wait for someone else to be responsible.
In the long run this skill pays off! Even though it might be uncomfortable to speak up at first, remember that each time you do, it becomes easier as time goes on. If there is an issue with what’s being discussed openly, then make sure to bring it up too so others know about it before they get into any trouble for making the same mistake later down the line.
Action Step: Is there an email chain or a Slack message that no one on the team responded to yet? Have you had a problem that no one else has come up with the solution for? If so, take action! Be the one to provide answers even if you don’t feel too confident.
In software development, there are many ways to solve the same problem. Different implementations have different trade-offs. Often, there is no single correct answer. If your co-worker comes to you with an idea that differs from yours, be open-minded and ask all the questions before coming to any conclusion.
Being open-minded is important in software development because it’s a competitive and collaborative field. If you are not open-minded, it’s very hard to grow to the senior role.
But also accept that not everyone understands your point of view or cares about what you think, so don’t get discouraged.
Being open-minded will help you grow as a leader because your colleagues will respect you. They are more likely to listen and take your feedback seriously.
Action Step: If someone is making a point that makes little sense in your head or doesn’t resonate with you, then write it down and think about what you don’t like about the idea. If they are suggesting a design pattern, tool, or programming language that you are not familiar with, spend some time learning. That will help you form a better opinion.
Create meaningful discussion by bringing up important issues. If you’re working on a software project with your team and someone makes an error that could have a negative impact on the software, don’t be afraid to bring it up. Successful senior software developers know to start a discussion if they sense that the project is going off track.
When you bring up important discussions, your teammates learn to appreciate you as a team leader. The more often you start discussions, the more your team will trust you.
The result is smarter decisions that lead to success for a company or organization—and more projects completed efficiently and effectively than before.
Action Step: When you have an opinion, share it. Start with a comment that’s not too strong or controversial. For example, you might say, “I agree with that last observation,” or “That’s an interesting idea to consider. What if we tried adding X to it?” If you disagree, start by pointing out the benefits of your opinion so people can understand where you’re coming from. It might surprise you how many people agree with your thoughts.
Motivate and empower your teammates to build quality software.
Encourage your teammates by praising them when they do well. For example, if you are doing a code review, be sure to point out the positive things that you found in their code. If they are working on a bug and they fixed it quickly, praise them for getting to the root cause promptly and with as little impact as possible.
When your teammate goes the extra mile to help on an emergency issue, reward them with positive reinforcement and recognition.
When you see them struggling with a bug or making mistakes in their code reviews, do everything that you can to help them succeed and learn from the experience. That can be as simple as saying a few words of encouragement.
Compliment your colleagues in front of everyone because this encourages others to do the same.
Action Step: When your teammate does a good job, tell them. Be specific in your compliments. Tell them what you liked about a specific feature, design, or idea. When you do a code review, if you see code you really like, explain what you like about it, and compliment the author.
Make Space for Others
Listen actively and provide space for others to talk. Give others a chance to speak up. Encourage your team members by letting them know you are interested in their opinion, ideas, and advice.
It’s natural to feel discomfort or nervousness when sharing thoughts with the boss or the team.
Make it easier for your teammates to express themselves by asking questions.
For example, ask “Can you tell me about your idea?” or “What was the problem that made you think of this solution?”
Listen and pay attention when you’re talking with colleagues. When we listen, others feel heard—and that’s empowering.
Showing interest in other people leads to trust and appreciation from your team members. It may sound simple at first, but it becomes a great habit for building strong relationships on the team.
The leadership style of a successful software developer is to give others space. Let them do their work in a way that they are most comfortable with even if it doesn’t match your preferred way or seems slow.
Meetings are a way for your team to collaborate and share their thoughts on where the project is at. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know what everyone thinks because people may be quiet or hesitant about sharing their opinions with you or other teammates during meetings. Here are some ways that you can make space for others in meetings:
Action Step: If someone is quiet during a meeting, ask him or her to share their thoughts on what’s been discussed. This will show that you care and want to hear their opinion.
Also, never ever interrupt when somebody is speaking because it might make them feel bad, and it will discourage others from speaking up as well.
Share Your Knowledge
One way to be an excellent leader is by broadcasting your knowledge.
Even if you think you are not as knowledgeable as other developers on the team, there are still valuable things to share. Everyone comes from a unique background or has different areas of expertise.
Share your ideas with the team by presenting them to a group or through a written medium such as an email, chat message, or documentation.
Writing documentation is a great way to share knowledge with teammates and future developers. Since it’s a written form, you have time to think about what you’re trying to say before publishing.
If you’re not sure what documentation, think about the most basic tasks that a new developer might need. For example: how do I get started with this code base?
You can also share knowledge by assisting teammates who are less experienced in certain areas than you. This knowledge you share with them will help them become more self-sufficient and confident.
Action Step: Research a topic that other developers on the team are struggling with but is not documented. Then start small—Write the one or two things that new developers need to know. Your teammates will appreciate the help.
Master These Skills and You Will Be Ready for a Senior Leadership Role
It’s never too early to develop the skills that a leader needs. You can work on these skills now while you are still an aspiring developer looking for your first senior role. You don’t want to be surprised when it comes time to make that leap, and you definitely don’t want to have any regrets about what your career could’ve been.
Whether it’s about encouraging team members or making space for them, there is always something new to learn and practice in order to become a better leader. Learn how to work with others, how to take responsibility and how to share your knowledge for the benefit of the entire team.
Take some time over the next few weeks to work on each of these skills by following action steps listed in each section so you’ll have an advantage when it comes time for promotion.