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I've been appointed yesterday as Team Leader; I was astonished as I am still under probation, but this means also that the company has given me an enormous trust and I've shown already plenty.

There's one dev though that expressed a concern, as he feels the team was not consulted in the decision. I get along wonderfully with this colleague (maybe better than anyone), so I don't expect any personal problem as he trusts me and vice-versa, but still the question remains.

To my experience, choosing a TL is not "democratic", as it involves evaluations that involve business, dealing with people, communication, attitudes, empathy, organizational skills. But being new to the role, I feel the obligation to talk with the community and test my assumptions.

What do you think? How can I talk about it without seeming to "defend my position"? Or it's better that explanations come from whom appointed me (director)?

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    Why do you feel the need that you even have to talk about it? It's normal, and when done right healthy, that people in higher positions get questioned by those below. – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 9 '20 at 8:39
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    Is his concern "it was decided without talking with the team" or "it was decided without talking with the team and then they picked you"? That is; is your teammate bothered only be the process, or also the result? – Erik Jun 9 '20 at 9:14
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    @Erik he respects me a lot, it's not a personal issue and we get along wonderfully. And to me, he's my favourite dev there. It's really just about process. – Czar Jun 9 '20 at 11:43
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To my experience, choosing a TL is not "democratic", as it involves evaluations that involve business, dealing with people, communication, attitudes, empathy, organizational skills.

Your colleague was not asking for a democratic process. He was asking to be heard. There's a huge difference. Asking for my opinion is in no way democratic, because my opinion can then be weighted against other factors and maybe those factors weight more, while democracy means all opinions have the same weight. In my opinion, I deserve a Ferrari, but since my opinion has to be weighted against the budget, I don't get one. It's not democratic. The budget wins, it's more important. And nobody really doubts that.

But even if opinions and advice is weighted, asking for an opinion shows that you care. You might not be able to grant all wishes, but you considered them.

Your company did not even consider the wishes of your colleagues. They weren't low on the list. They weren't on the list. The company sent a clear message: we don't care about your opinion. Our decision who to make team leader is not a weighted decision between all factors, including your advice who would be a good leader. No, we sat behind our desks and straight up picked the one we thought best. And it's our thoughts alone that matter. They don't matter more than yours, they are the only one's that matter.

That is one shitty company. I have seen people quit over getting a team lead they did not deem suitable. And not for work matters, they just did not like them personally. Had the company acquired feedback, they would simply made them lead a different team and all would have been happy. But if you don't care and just pull a lazy dictator move, you may see that employees actually aren't just peons. They can leave if they don't like being herded like cattle.


So this is not your mistake. Don't apologize for something you did not do. You do not need to defend yourself, since your colleague was not attacking you with that statement.

But take away a lesson for your own work: you don't need to let people vote. Leading does not mean you need to form a democratic committee every time you make an decision. But a good leader will ask for opinions and then weight all the different factors and make a decision. Not asking for opinions shows that person doesn't actually try to make the best decision by gathering all the factors first, they are just a lazy dictator, not a good leader.

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  • As an addition to this answer: one of the first actions to do as the new team leader could be to talk to your colleague and show that you understand their concerns. You may discuss how you plan to handle discussions in the future. In other words, you can be the difference your colleague wishes for as their new leader. – Theo Tiger Jun 23 '20 at 19:39
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To my experience, choosing a TL is not "democratic"

That is true, you understand correctly.

and I've shown already plenty

Maybe yes, maybe no. I assume that the company is "watching" you even after the nomination, to make sure that they made the right choice.

There's one dev though that expressed a concern

You should be very happy about it. It happens quite often that people would not express their concerns, but act against you.

How can I talk about it without seeming to "defend my position"?

First, do not defend yourself. Just mention the facts, that the company nominate you, and you agreed.

Also, maintain an open relationship to your colleagues. Encourage them to provide feedback: what you do good, and also what you can improve. Please learn about the "science of giving and receiving feedback. Making mistakes is easy, and the effects can be huge / disastrous.

When you provide feedback to them, concentrate on the problem, not on the person. In that way, they learn to trust you, and you help each other grow professionally (and personally).

I feel the obligation to confront with the community

That is a bad choice of words, because confrontation typically involves some aggression. But if you feel the obligation to communicate with the community, that is another business, and is totally recommended.

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    Thanks for the insights! As for the last part, it may be a language mistake on my side (not English mothertongue). In italian "confronto" means also proactive comparison of ideas, maybe in English the connotation is more negative. Will change wording, thanks. – Czar Jun 9 '20 at 9:11
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    @Czar Yes, "confront" is definitely negative in English, meaning taking a very aggressive, potentially hostile, attitude. – Philip Kendall Jun 9 '20 at 9:20
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    @Czar do you communicate with your team in English? If you do then you need to be very careful about your choice of words - as what you say may well be understood as something different ie not what you meant. And, as is shown by the choice and use of words in your post. – Solar Mike Jun 9 '20 at 10:25
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This should not be your problem to fix.

It is your problem in the sense that you are suffering from it. However the solution can only come from your boss and the people who gave you the job.

First, talk immediately to your director and tell her what is going on. Tell her that your credibility is suffering as a result of complaints about the way you were appointed, and that this is going to obstruct you in your ability to lead the team. In my opinion it's her job to explain to the team that you were the right person for the job, and to persuade the team to follow you. This may be a detailed explanation of your qualifications, or it may be "Czar is our choice - follow him or be fired", or something in between. That depends on management style.

Do not attempt to defend yourself, or engage with anyone on the subject. Doing so will only get you into an argument or make you look defensive. Some variant on "This wasn't my decision, you'll have to take everything else up with the director." is all you should say.

I'm going to say absolutely nothing about the way you were chosen. There are so many variables that it's impossible to say anything useful.

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