What exactly is a lead developer?  A lead developer is in-charge and leads a team of developers.


What is the difference between a developer and a programmer?

While it may seem the same to some especially to those outside the tech industry but there’s an actual difference in their roles.

I’ve known tech companies that do not have an idea the role of the two. Mostly seen in startups that hire just anyone. The role of a programmer becomes the developer as well.

A developer, on the other hand, gets involved in the whole process of the project development. They can be present in the requirements gathering, writing codes, testing, and implementation. If they’re really great, some can even fit in the role as a scrum master.


Becoming a lead developer can boost one’s career but the role has its own challenges and comes with responsibilities.

If you were a programmer and have been moved up to the position, what mostly happens is that you forgot that you’re not just a programmer anymore. You are responsible for your team.

If you’re following Scrum, you don’t just do your role in the sprint. You have to know the entirety of the team’s actions towards the sprint’s goals.

As a lead developer, you have the official authority over your team. You can delegate tasks to your team members and sway the direction of the team in whichever way you want it. You are in the position of power.

Sound nice, doesn’t it? So how does one become a lead developer?

Have The Right Skill Set

You should be an expert at what you do. Master your craft.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Improve on your strengths and work on what you consider your weaknesses.

No Issues Admitting Mistakes

Be responsible and accountable.

Prioritize Others Before You

Once you become a lead, your team is now your priority.

Acquire Soft and People Skills

You should be very good at communicating with others, not just your team. You represent your team. You would be dealing with a lot of people. The key here is know how to approach and speak to them to get them do what you want them to do.

Start Now

Start leading in a not annoying or irritating way. Start by reaching out more and helping your team members who are struggling with something. This way, you also get to practice your people’s skills.

So what exactly is the role of a lead developer in a project?

Below are some of the roles and responsibilities of a lead developer:

Setting the standards of the project

–    He will set the screens and flow of the project and ensure to pass it among the team members with clarity

Researches the technologies and tools to use

–    The lead developer must always have something on hand to inform the team what are the technologies and tools the team will be using for the project. The team members can and are always welcome give their opinions on what’s the best technology and tools to use to do a project.

Sets the plan for the project

–    One of the lead’s responsibilities is to set the direction on how the project will go. A good example is setting the timeline for the project and presenting it to the stakeholders/clients/product owners. His plan must always be in line with the project’s goals and ensures to deliver the project on the agreed timeline.

Decision making

–    This is one responsibility which is impactful on a project. A lead must always make a sound decision. His decision must always be for the benefit of all parties involved in the project.

Middle Man

–    A lead answers most if not all the questions about the project. It’s the lead’s responsibility to know what’s happening in the project, are they on schedule? Are there any delays?  A lead must be the shock absorber for the team. He must be ready to take in the pressure and not let it out on the team.

Now that you have an idea on how to become a lead developer and some of its roles and responsibilities but what exactly does it mean to be a lead developer?

Be A Mentor

It was mentioned earlier in this article but I would just like to point out the importance of being a mentor as a lead developer.

Sure, your goal is to ensure that your team finishes a project on or before the set deadline but there is much more in being a lead developer.

I always make it a personal mission to make member by member to improve and eventually work his or her way up the ladder. I choose the team member who struggles more than the others and I spend more time with him/her.

Sometimes, we don’t get to see what wrong with us or with what we’re doing until it’s being told to us from other’s perspective. When I was coding, there were times that no matter how many times I quietly read it in my mind, I couldn’t see the bug or the error in my codes syntax until I say out loud my codes line by line.

Hearing myself say it, it registered clearly that there was something wrong on the logical side of the codes.

Mentor someone the way you would want to be mentored. This can be tricky because some people react differently from a certain approach. This is where your people’s skills come into play. Know how to approach a team member and be his or her leader.

A great lead developer brings out the best of each and every team member.

Practice What You Preach

Whatever house rules you set for the team, ensure that you will follow it as well. Lead by example, my friend. Don’t be a hypocrite by setting rules that everyone must follow but you. If you asked them to give you a day from their weekends to catch up on a deadline, be there as well. I have seen this a lot. The members agreed on doing overtime only to find out that the lead will not be coming in or have come in late.

Be Responsible And Take Accountability

You are responsible for your team’s actions. If the team failed to deliver something, you’re accountable for it. While you have are not the sole person responsible for an error in the system, it happened on your watch. Suck it in.

Each member’s attendance is on you, their productivity is on you and the whole team’s work output is on you. Do not take the whole credit if the team did well, ensure to give the credit where the credit is due.

Being a lead developer is challenging but it comes with its own rewards.

We’d love to hear from you! We want to know about your experience as a lead developer. Share it with us in the comments section below or email us at info@whutthetech.com.

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