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Embrace these 5 tenets for better QA leadership

Knowledge and hands-on skills are always useful, but successful QA team leads also inspire and stand up for their teams. Here are five ways to remove team obstacles and coach great testers.

Today's technology leaders don't manage with a command-and-control approach. Instead, they help team members achieve broad but defined goals through coaching, roadblock removal and encouragement. These tenets apply to effective QA leadership.

In some organizations, particularly startups, days are long, and testers are under significant pressure to deliver. Teams can get discouraged and become less productive. That's why organizations need QA leadership to keep everyone focused and engaged in their mission. A QA lead can rouse workers in multiple ways.

Define a goal and keep the team informed

Team members crave open and honest communication. While some information, like the details about negotiations for new funding, shouldn't be shared widely, QA leads should tell team members as much as they can about the state of the project and the company.

The lead should clearly define project- and company-level goals so that team members can collaborate on those objectives. If a team understands and likes its objectives, it might find better ways to do things independently.

Foster knowledge and enthusiasm

The attitude QA leadership exudes rubs off on team members. Nobody likes working for a dour, unhappy leader, and it affects group performance. QA managers should recognize how their confidence and poise under pressure set a teamwide tone.

These leads must also know how to address difficult problems and should eagerly share that insight with the team. QA leads should offer actionable advice on any particular activity. As a practice, testing has dramatically changed over the years, and it's entirely likely that QA managers don't have any direct experience in some of the areas in which their team works. For example, some leads might not be able to direct the efforts of performance testing, continuous testing or API testing initiatives. While a lead might not have experience in all of the team's test executions, such a manager brings knowledge and experience in testing that applies to all types of practices.

Guide people and lead by example

QA team leaders should provide general direction, as opposed to rigid oversight. Trust that individual software testers can decide how to accomplish objectives.

That said, when a team is in the weeds, QA leads shouldn't sit back while other testers do the work. The best QA leadership comes from managers who lead by example and often roll up their sleeves to do difficult tasks.

Work with people as individuals

Many ineffective QA leaders look at team members as a collection of testing skills and experiences, not as individual personalities. Effective QA leadership acknowledges each team member as a human being with strengths, weaknesses and lives outside of work. These leaders might coach each tester on the team's practices on an individual level.

Clear barriers to team success

QA leads should mitigate outside impediments that interfere with team dynamics and performance, even if it is an uncomfortable task.

For example, a QA lead might stand up to senior management when they criticize a particular tester, or such a team leader might discover innovative ways to get the resources to build and run a needed test framework. If a leader can eliminate external problems, team members can focus on their responsibilities.

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