Given the nature of the software industry, if I join a different company as team lead or software architect, there is a good chance the existing team would be using languages and tools I am unfamiliar with.

Although I can put in my personal time to catch up, it will not be enough, as the team will almost always have more domain knowledge than me, so they wont respect my opinion and it would be cheap of me to fire or threaten anyone who shows insubordination, because their insubordination is because of my lack of knowledge. I have seen people manage this in these ways:

  1. Ask subordinates detailed questions about what they know and ask further details until they fumble and appear stupid. At this point, pitch in with sage advice and sound superior.
  2. For any decision the subordinate takes, keep going blah blah about why it is a poor decision and make them follow some other decision of yours even if suboptimal.
  3. Call the subordinates one by one for long meetings during working hours, during which they explain to you what they have been doing and you learn the nuances of the tech during the meetings.

To a tech person, the above decisions can sound dumb. But from a management perspective, is this the right way to handle the situation?

A lead is basically supposed to "take charge" and rein in the detractors.

  • To clarify is the role you are in right now strictly managerial or is it a tech lead sort where you actually do code and have to know the codebase? Or is your day-to-day more assigning tasks and discussing software architecture?
    – Kevin Xu
    Mar 4, 2017 at 9:54
  • see also Managing very senior individual contributors?
    – gnat
    Mar 4, 2017 at 11:56
  • Indeed this question has been asked many times over. Try a search to find those questions and you'll get lots of good advice!
    – user30031
    Mar 4, 2017 at 13:57
  • @user14287117 Tech lead. Not purely managerial.
    – Julia
    Mar 4, 2017 at 14:35
  • "Ask subordinates detailed questions about what they know and ask further details until they fumble and appear stupid. At this point, pitch in with sage advice and sound superior." My boss is very clever. What he's good at, he's better at it than I would be. Whet I am good at, I'm better than he would be. If he tried to sound superior (which he doesn't) he would instantly lose all respect. He hired me for being better at my stuff than he would be.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 18, 2020 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


All the methods you outlined are not good ones nor is assuming you're going to be behind on everything. Why take the job if you think you can't cope?

My method is simple. I use the staff to their best advantages, it makes no difference if they know more than me, it just makes me listen to them closely in their subject of expertise while at the same time being cynical and questioning when need be so they don't waste resources or time.

At the end of the day you're leading people, not following, so be professional, listen, learn, manage. Don't get close to them, watch their behaviour in terms of their interactions, attitudes and work. Then once you have a good grasp of them as individuals which doesn't take long, you can actually manage them professionally.

The important part is not to let your own ego cloud your judgement, you need to be self-confident to inspire confidence in you, and you need to be open to advanced knowledge from experts and able to admit when you are wrong or when you don't know.


Option 4 - you acknowledge that your team has superior domain and technical knowledge, and don't manage autocratically.

Your job isn't necessarily telling them what to do or how to do it - it should be about enabling your team to get the best outcome for the work they're doing - and that means trusting that they know what they're doing, too.

If you "take charge and reign in", you will end up with sub-par performance and people resigning

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .