With so many companies trying to fill technical leadership positions, it may seem a bit daunting to get into the profession. After all, it’s not every day in school that you get the chance to learn technical leadership. In fact, most schools don’t delve into this topic.
This is where Career Karma comes in. By following our step-by-step guide, you’ll gain technical leadership skills quickly enough to excel as a technical leader. Read on to find out the best technical leadership courses, books, and online tools around.
What Is Technical Leadership?
Technical leadership is the use of leadership skills to oversee a technical team. By combining strong leadership skills with technical skills, tech leaders can guide their technical teams toward the successful delivery of products.
The role of a technical leader is so rarely sought out. Often, it is a title given unexpectedly by an employer. Because of this, most people don’t really know what technical leadership is.
What Is Technical Leadership Used For?
Technical leadership isn’t a hard skill. It is used for more of the behind-the-scenes work and produces little to no immediate tangible results. Nevertheless, technical leadership remains an essential skill in the workplace for the following reasons.
- Providing leadership. The most obvious application for technical leadership skills is to perform the role of head of a technical team. This is important because it gives the team actual direction and voice.
- Guiding team members. Technical leaders are the go-to person for advice and guidance. When it comes to software development, having that guidance can make all the difference between a successful project and a lost cause.
- Setting the work environment tone. One of the most overlooked uses of technical leadership is how it sets the atmosphere of the workplace. Leaders direct how teams handle successes and setbacks. These determine what the work environment will be like for other employees.
- Ensuring good decisions. Technical leadership also means technical management. A tech lead is expected to make decisions that will best benefit the company.
Technical Leadership Skills
While managers need to attain many leadership skills to become successful, technical leaders have to master even more. As the title suggests, they are expected to be technical experts as well as leaders.
Expertise in Technology
Being a tech expert is crucial to becoming a technical leader. Without the ability to understand your team’s work, you would be no more useful than a random hire.
Knowing the specific technology your prospective company uses is ideal. Being well-versed in different technologies, even more. There are thousands of certificate programs you can enroll in to help you do just that.
A leader must be able to build his or her team. This doesn’t mean literally picking out team members or using people like Lego blocks. Rather, it means taking the time to develop strong relationships with every team member.
As you move along in your career, you must demonstrate how you’ve led your teams to success. Helping them maximize their potential also speaks volumes about your skills as a leader. To hone these skills, seek out management training courses.
If you have ever worked in an office before, then you know that problems are inevitable. People cause problems, and so do technological tools. As a technical leader, you will need to be excellent at solving interpersonal and technological issues.
For the former, practice being empathic and level-headed. For the latter, equip yourself with tech expertise and the ability to see the big picture.
Learning Technical Leadership
There are many ways to go about learning technical leadership. You can go to college and earn a degree. You can take it down a notch and just sign up for short-term courses. Or, you can throw caution to the wind and study on your own. Whichever route you take, there are plenty of resources to help you along the way.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Technical Leadership?
There is no set period for learning technical leadership. For instance, if you decide to go to college and earn a degree in leadership and management, it could take four to eight years.
But, if you are self-taught or learning on the job, it could take you anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. It really depends on your determination and preferred learning method.
How to Learn Technical Leadership: Step-by-Step
- Become an expert in your area of technology. The first step to becoming an effective leader is to master a specific area of technology. May it be in web development, software engineering, or database management, determine your interest and then learn as much as you can.
- Consider attending college. College may not be the best avenue for everyone, but it might do you good to at least consider a few classes. If you find that it suits you, attend full time. Otherwise, you’ll still get the knowledge you need to become a tech leader.
- Determine your leadership style. There are many leadership styles, and you’ll need to know yours so you can use it to your advantage. Find out whether you are a coaching leader or a transformational leader, then improve upon it.
- Take advantage of available resources. This article lists a lot of technical leadership training resources. Take advantage of these. Explore as many of them as possible for more personalized development.
- Never stop learning. The biggest mistake that many leaders make is thinking they have nothing left to learn. Whether it’s a new piece of technology or a new leadership technique, always be hungry for continual growth.
The Best Technical Leadership Courses and Training
To accelerate your professional development, consider enrolling in a few technical leadership classes. The courses below offer in-person, online, and free learning to expand your knowledge and skill set. These will prove useful to you whether you’re already a high-level leader or just beginning to explore your potential.
Best In-Person Technical Leadership Classes
- Provider: Dale Carnegie – Baton Rouge, LA
- Duration: Varies
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $1,795
Dale Carnegie Training offers this program in locations all over the country, but this one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the most intensive. Through this program, students transform into active and high-performing leaders.
- Provider: MIT Professional Education – Cambridge, MA
- Schedule: April 2021 – December 2021 (8 months)
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $28,000
This course seeks to help your company thrive in a world of constant change. It’s a fantastic way to stay up to date with technological trends and innovations while honing your leadership skills.
- Provider: University of Washington – Seattle, WA
- Duration: 10 weeks
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $2,850
This course addresses the often-glazed-over fact that technical leaders serve as unofficial authority figures. It’s designed to help you garner respect even if you lack an official title.
The Best Online Technical Leadership Courses
- Provider: MasterClass
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $15/month or $180/year
MasterClass is a subscription-based website that charges $15 per month, or a $180 annual membership fee. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour’s Creativity and Leadership class is a great way to learn how to incorporate creative thinking into your leadership style.
- Provider: Udemy
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $24.99
Udemy is well-known for offering a plethora of tech-related courses. This is yet another great one. You should take this course if you want to learn technical management skills that are specifically related to project management.
Best Free Technical Leadership Courses
- Provider: Coursera & University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Online)
- Duration: 4 weeks
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: Enroll for free (Financial aid available)
This course is the fruit of a partnership between Coursera and the University of Illinois. It teaches students about the importance of leadership skills and how to exercise such skills.
- Provider: edX
- Duration: Course dates TBA (12 weeks)
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: Free ($50 for a certificate of completion)
Through edX, you can take this completely free course focusing on the importance of ethics in leadership. It teaches students to use their own life as a foundation for the type of leader they wish to be.
Best Technical Leadership Books
One of the best ways to learn technical leadership is to study constantly. Reading books may not be for everyone. But for avid readers, picking up a book about leadership skills is a great way to learn. These books are some of our favorites for learning how to lead a technical team.
While not about technical leadership specifically, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a great read about women in the workplace. Check out this book if you are a woman working toward a leadership position. It’s also a great read for male leaders looking to better understand team diversity.
Patrick Lencioni weaves an incredible story about a woman facing the job of uniting her team to save the company. In Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni expertly weaves common team dysfunctions into an easy-to-read narrative. If you’re on the lookout for a workplace fable, give this a read.
Written by Paul Glen and Maria McManus, a self-described one geek and one non-geek pair, this book expertly combines leadership and technology. This is a great read for people unsure of how to combine the two skills.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Technical Leadership Certifications
Earn a technical leadership certificate by completing six courses. Although all the courses are offered individually, you will receive a significant discount if you enroll in all of them at once.
This certificate program is designed to teach you how to:
- Effectively manage a technical team
- Hold important conversations
- Handle the transition from technical expert to technical leader
Cornell University’s online university, eCornell, offers 23 leadership certifications. While they do not all apply to technical leadership, quite a few of them can be extremely useful.
Our top picks include the following certification programs:
- Change Management
- Leadership Essentials
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Women in Leadership
Any one of these can improve your employability and advance your career.
Best Online Technical Leadership Resources
Have you gleaned as much information as you can from taking courses and reading books? Then it may be time to turn to online resources. These websites offer podcasts and tips that can help turn you into a tech lead your team would be lucky to have.
The Center for Creative Leadership is an online resource for all leaders, technical or not. This website is essentially a massive library of podcasts related to leadership skills and education.
Renew Leadership offers a plethora of resources to help you expand your leadership skills for any position. Their leadership development options are for both organizational leaders and those who lead on an individual basis.
Should You Study Technical Leadership?
Technical leadership skills can be useful to anyone who already works in or plans to work in technology. Combining tech skills with leadership skills can be difficult for anyone.
So, taking the time to study technical leadership ensures that you blend your skills seamlessly. Being able to lead a team is the best way to impress your employers, boost your paycheck, and ultimately, rise through the ranks.
Technical Leadership FAQ
Yes, leadership can be taught and learned. While leadership roles may seem intimidating, it’s important to know that all successful leaders honed their skills over time. Read our guide and choose from our top picks of the best tech leadership courses.
To become a successful technical lead, you must have the technical expertise as well as project management skills. Both of these come as a package, meaning you can’t lead the team by having one without the other.
According to Glassdoor, technical leads earn a base salary of $78,626 per year. The top 10 percent of technical leads enjoy around $112,000 while those at the bottom 10 percent rake in over $50,000.
Most employers will require a bachelor’s degree for you to qualify as a tech lead. Technical leads must have technical expertise, not just leadership skills. So, a degree and some certifications in your field of expertise will help boost your chances of getting that technical lead role.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.