A strong leader understands how all the parts fit together and has a dynamic understanding of how things move through the team, whose strengths are where and where another team member needs scaffolding. This strength can save you time and money. Anyone can hire someone to do as you tell them – take the time to hire a leader who can tell you what’s best.
1) Experience failing
A good technical leader is going to have lots of experience failing. It is the nature of technology and leading technical teams. These failures need to be the biggest teacher because they have the greatest value. An experienced technical leader should have a process through which they review (post-mortem) the project and identify the gaps and concerns that caused problems, delays, and issues. Without such a process the experience still exists, but it is hard to put it to work with a team. The team should be able to access and make use of this experience too.
2) Familiarity with common approaches
You want a technical leader who can listen to a developer’s approach to a problem or task and ask intelligent questions. They need not necessarily be a developer themselves, but they should have had enough time in the saddle to know when a developer is going off on a tangent that’s not necessary. They need to be able to smell BS. It isn’t that developers want to waste time, but the focus and logic that makes developers valuable can also be the trait that keeps them from being focused on the bigger picture.
3) The ability to translate
It’s often said that developers are from mars and then there are the rest of us. Ok, maybe that’s not often said, but we’ve all thought as much. A good product or technical lead will be able to translate market, sales and user need to technical people without frustrating either. This should also lead to the ability to anticipate questions from any interested party, the ability to break down vague helpdesk requests and get to the heart of issues.
An experienced, focused product lead is worth their weight in gold.