Technical leadership isn’t exactly something you learn in high school. With so many companies trying to fill technical leadership positions, it may seem a bit daunting to get into the profession.
Try seeing it as a challenge. By taking some of the following technical leadership courses, and exploring some books and resources, you will learn technical leadership skills to excel as a technical leader.
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 team members in an authoritative and informed way, making them a desirable part of a technical team.
It is rare that you would specifically seek out a technical leadership job. More 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 physical results that you can see. However, the skills are still essential in the workplace for a few reasons.
- Providing leadership. The most obvious application for technical leadership skills is as the head of a technical team. This is important because it gives the team a real voice.
- Guiding team members. Technical leaders are the go-to person on the team for advice and guidance. When it comes to jobs in software engineering, having that guidance can make all the difference for team members.
- Setting the work environment tone. One of the most overlooked uses of technical leadership is how it can be used to set the tone of a work environment. Leaders dictate how their team handles successes and setbacks, and these reactions will 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
There are many leadership skills you need to become a successful manager of any sort, but technical leaders have to master even more skills. 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 knowledge to be able to understand your team’s work, you would be no more useful than a random hire.
While knowing the specific technology your prospective company uses is ideal, it is also important for your own personal development to be well-versed in many different technologies. There are thousands of certificate programs you can enroll in to help you do just that.
An important trait for any leader is to be able to build their team. This doesn’t mean literally picking out the team 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, it is important to be able to show how many successful, productive teams you have worked with. To hone this skill, you may seek out some management training courses.
If you have ever worked in an office before, you know that sometimes people cause problems. Unfortunately, technology often causes problems, too. As a technical leader, you will need to be excellent at solving interpersonal and technological issues.
Being empathetic and level-headed are the traits you need to solve people’s problems. To resolve technological problems, you will need to have good decision-making skills, the ability to see the big picture, and tech expertise.
Learning Technical Leadership
There are many ways you can go about learning technical leadership. You could go to college and earn a leadership degree, study on your own, or even take a risk and sign up for a course. Whichever route you decide to go, there are plenty of courses, certificate programs, and books to help you along the way.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Technical Leadership?
There is no set time 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 and a few years. It really depends on you and your preferred method of learning.
How to Learn Technical Leadership: Step-by-Step
- Become an expert in your area of technology. The first step to becoming a successful and effective leader is to become an expert in one area of technology. Whether you choose Web development, programming, or database management, you’ll need to learn as much as you can.
- Consider college. College may not be the best avenue for everyone, but it might do you good to at least consider a few classes. Then, if you want to attend full time, go for it. If you decide it’s not your thing, you’ll still be able to 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 in order to use it to your advantage. Find out whether you are a coaching leader or a transformational leader, then use your self-awareness to improve your strengths and weaknesses.
- Take advantage of available resources. There are a lot of technical leadership training resources listed in this article. Explore as many of them as you can to become the best technical leader possible.
- 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 technique that can help improve your leadership style, you should never stop learning and growing.
The Best Technical Leadership Courses and Training
In order to advance your professional development and become the best technical leader you can, you should consider enrolling in a few technical leadership classes. Whether you are already a high-level leader or just beginning to explore your leadership skills, the courses below offer in-person, online, and free options to expand your knowledge and skill set.
Best In-Person Technical Leadership Classes
- Provider: Dale Carnegie – Baton Rouge, LA
- Time: January 13, 2021 – March 31, 2021 (10 weeks)
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $1,795
Dale Carnegie Training offers its Leadership Training program in locations all over the country, but this one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is the most intensive. Through this program, you will learn how to become an excellent, active leader for your team.
- Provider: MIT Professional Education – Cambridge, MA
- Time: April 2021 – December 2021 (8 months)
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $28,000
Described as a course to help your company thrive in a world of constant change, MIT’s Technology Leadership Program is a fantastic way to stay up to date with technological trends and innovations while honing your leadership skills.
- Provider: University of Washington – Seattle, WA
- Time: January 4, 2021 – March 15, 2021 (10 weeks)
- Prerequisites: none
- Price: $2,850
The University of Washington’s Technical Leadership course addresses the often glazed over fact that technical leaders typically work as unofficial authority figures. This course is designed to help you garner respect even if you lack an official title.
Best Online Technical Leadership Courses
- Provider: MasterClass
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: $15/month or $180 annual fee
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. The Technical Project Manager – Leadership and Management course 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)
- Time: November 16, 2020 – December 14, 2020 (4 weeks)
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
Coursera and the University of Illinois have partnered to offer this online course for free. In it, you will learn why leadership skills are so important and how to exercise critical foundational leadership skills.
- Provider: edX
- Time: Course dates TBA (12 weeks)
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free ($50 for certificate)
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 skills is to study on your own time, in your own way. Reading books may not be for everyone, but for the avid readers out there, picking up an educational book about leadership skills and how to work with your team members is a fantastic 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, or if you’re a male leader looking for a resource to help you better understand your diverse team.
Best described as a workplace fable, Patrick Lencioni weaves an incredible story about a woman facing the job of uniting her team before it destroys the entire company. In Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni expertly weaves common team dysfunctions into an easy to read story.
Written by Paul Glen and Maria McManus, a self-described one geek and one non-geek pair, The Geek Leader’s Handbook expertly combines themes of great leadership with themes of technology. This is a great read for anyone unsure of how to combine the two skills.
Technical Leadership Certifications
Through the University of Wisconsin – Madison, you can earn a technical leadership certificate by completing six courses. Although all of the courses are offered individually by the university, you will receive a significant discount if you enroll in all of them at once as part of the certificate program.
This certificate program is designed to teach you how to effectively manage a technical team, how to have important conversations, and most importantly, how to 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.
Some of our top picks for technical leader training include the Change Management, Leadership Essentials, Diversity and Inclusion, and Women in Leadership certificates. Any one of these can improve your employability and advance your career.
Best Online Technical Leadership Resources
If you have gleaned as much information as you can from taking courses and reading books, it may be time to turn to some online resources. These websites offer podcasts and leadership development advice that can help turn you into a tech lead your team members 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, and taking the time to study technical leadership will ensure that you can blend your skills seamlessly.
Even if your job title does not include the word leader or manager, being able to lead a team is the best way to impress your employers, boost your paycheck, and ultimately, take your career to the top. So, to answer, you should definitely study technical leadership.