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I joined a young company, active for less than four years. Previously they were six people working together but in the last year, they hired a lot of people (including me). Now we are almost twenty developers (and more in total) with approximately the same experience. We are totally self organized, and have no official lead or manager except the CEO that gave us the rough direction.

The first thing that makes me feel bad is the high pressure that result about this. We have all our own tasks that we want to accomplish and need to bargain with others in order to get help or sometime avoid their work break ours. It also result in a hard competition for having our own decision validated (in term of feature, code convention, used tools, ...) in order to be seen (and potentially have a salary increase). It appears that this situation is bad for the employee (due to the resulting stress) but also for the company (it seems that the four former developers accomplished much when alone than all of us together).

The second thing is, I joined a small company in order to move to a lead position (it was not possible in my former companies). I was hopping for a senior lead to teach me (but he left before I arrive).

I'm going to raise this no-lead situation to the CEO. Should I also mention that I came in order to evolve in a lead position? Is it a good idea to be formalized (as junior*) lead in this high competition workplace or should I move on my expectation? Have you any tips (I was thinking to join a good leadership school in order to give weight to my candidature).

*I've a good technical skill and have been punctually the replacement of my manager in my previous company but have never endorsed this role so far.

EDIT: @David, by leading, I was thinking to: Manage meetings and settle decision on which techno should be used (currently anyone can bring its own preferred third party library or develop a new one, it's a lot of discussion to have a uniform solution). Handle feedback and issues from customers. Prioritize and redistribute the task. @Jay, Before I was backend developer.

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    "Leading" sounds a lot to me like an empty buzzword. Could you specify the "leading roles" that are, in your opinion, disregarded? – David Aug 5 at 7:27
  • What was your previous role/title before moving to this company? – Jay Gould Aug 5 at 9:27
  • You must become, "The lead" – Mathijs Aug 6 at 7:08
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Okay, there's a lot to unpack in your question. Hopefully the organization in this answer won't be too difficult to manage.

First up: Leading has almost nothing to do with technical skills. It's encouragement, communication, prioritization, and buck-ownership. This is mostly because of your * comment at the bottom - generally, people that are management material don't toot their horn about technical skills - even if they have them - because they know it doesn't really have anything to do with it.

Second, you can't view it as competition. You're not competing with your coworkers - as you've seen, that sort of attitude hurts the company's culture. It's not what's needed from a leader. And if the CEO has any sense, they're not going to elevate someone who scrabbles at the expense of everyone around them - they're going to find someone that elevates them instead.

Third, nobody leads a rabble. You're focusing a lot on "I want to be the lead", but right now, there's a bigger problem: there's no structure. Instead of worrying about whether you'll be the lead, focus on: how to convince the CEO he needs to add a layer of management at all. Maybe ask him if you could have him and a few people around the office brainstorm logical ways of subdividing the 20+ people into areas.

Fourth, you don't have to be a manager to be a leader. I'm not in management, but I'm definitely a leader. I help my coworkers learn new concepts. They ask me questions whenever they're not sure about a concept. Management knows they can put me in charge of a project and I'll deliver a result. I cheer people up, I compliment people's work all the time, and I try my hardest to be an example of good worksmanship. I might be a manager some day, but that's because people generally put leaders into management - they don't put people into management expecting they'll become leaders afterwards.

Fifth, the job culture seems like it kinda sucks. I think if you're serious about staying there, you should focus efforts on ways of improving that. And the great news is, you've got all sorts of power on that front - there are only 20 people there, which makes your influence incredible. This week, find a way to compliment a coworkers' efforts each day. Give someone a shoutout to the CEO. Instead of fighting with someone about a particular design decision, collaborate with them. Etc, etc. Picture what you wish people around the office were doing to help each other - and then do it yourself.

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