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I am currently a software developer. As a next milestone in my career I am thinking I must establish myself as team leader which leads a small development team in order to meet deliverables, deployments, etc. I've read various post in this site itself which discusses the pros and cons of working from home. But I am not sure if this aspect was quite discussed/debated. I haven't stepped into the team leading role per se, but I would like to know the responsibilities that come with the title, and if (and how) that can be managed while working from home.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I have worked with many Team Leads that are remote and do so myself. It is no different than anything else remote. Just need Chat, Email, Phone, and various Tools for remote work (Version Control, etc...)

Meetings are over phone, developers communicate via Chat, private messages are via Email, and code is centralized in a version control system.

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This matches my own experience having remotely led a widely-distributed team. I spent four years leading a team of engineers scattered throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California. Computers provide us with many tools to enable this, and the barriers to making it work effectively are very low. Just getting buy-in from all the participants is the main one. –  Adam Crossland Sep 15 '11 at 17:45
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There is no substitute for personal interaction.

I'm not saying that working as a lead doesn't work (just look at many of the popular OS packages available), I'm simply saying that it doesn't work as well as working with the people on your team in person.

As a team lead, part of your job is to mentor those under you. While e-mail, messaging and phone conversations solve the remote communication problem, there's so much missed in body language when you have those conversations. A strong leader knows his or her team and understands their strengths and weaknesses. Being able to read people and see how they react in certain situations (and understanding why) is key to being an effective leader. This simply can't be done remotely.

Also, working in person with the rest of the team fosters a much better relationship with the rest of your developers, therefore making you much more approachable than just being some guy who they never see.

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It depends on the specifics of your job and if the people you will interact with will be comfortable dealing with you remotely. Also, on how the team functions. Do you pair program, do the others in the team have to be in the office, etc. There are certain development styles that will not work well with working remotely.

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We have at least two team leads who are remote. It's harder to get the job if you are remote but if you are already a team lead and want to go remote, it seems a bit easier. Our 2 had to move to other parts of the country, one was already a lead and his success allowed the other to get considered for a lead position she would have had years earlier if she had not been remote.

You have to be very willing to be available and prove that the remoteness will not affect your ability to mentor, to assign work, to review work, to check progress etc. I suspect that with everything that is new to an organization you might have to be that little bit better than your non-remote teammates to get selected or to be allowed to do this. Certainly we have never been willing to let anyone except our exceptional employees go remote.

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