3P+T — The 4 Pillars of a Team Leader

Shay Mandel
4 min readJan 25, 2020
4 Pillars. Photo by Mark Belokopytov

I believe that setting expectations up front is a great way to help people succeed. As a manager of managers, I want to make sure that I am setting the right expectations when someone enters a manager role. After learning from my managers, listening to podcasts and reading quite a few books, I thought it would be good to put my expectations in writing.

The 4 Pillars

Those expectations are built as 4 pillars. It is easy to remember as T+3P, and still detailed enough to give guidance. It is not very detailed, and open enough so each one can fulfill it according to his or her style.

It was built for Software Team Leaders, but I believe it can be applied in many more technical domains.

So here it is:

A Technological Expert

  • Defines the technological vision for his team, and creates a roadmap to deliver it.
  • Drives technological changes, improvements and enhancements. Either by finding opportunities as part of delivering ongoing tasks, or by allocating specific time for it.
  • Fosters proper use of tools and technologies.
  • Grows the technical abilities of the team through Design Reviews, Code Reviews, Code Inspections.
  • Does not optimize too soon (third time’s a charm).
  • Ensures continuous improvement in productivity and quality
  • Ensures all aspects of quality are addressed: unit tests, integration tests, system tests, e2e tests, security, performance, scale, long run, end-user monitoring in production.

A People Manager

  • Knows his team members — their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, difficulties — at work and outside of work — and helps them learn how to overcome them.
  • Sets clear and challenging goals, and pushes people to challenge themselves.
  • Achieves results through internal-motivation — understands what motivates each team member and helps them achieve their goals through relevant tasks and challenges.
  • Serves as A team member to his peers and manager — helping the team achieve its goals and continue to improve.
  • Takes care of team building and creates an esprit de corps.

A Project Manager and Processes Improver

  • Brings results in the highest quality, scope and time. Reflects the status and raises flags on time, alerts about problems and at the same time tackles them and offers solutions (alerting and responding).
  • Understands the dependencies and works to reduce them.
  • Understands the processes and works to improve them.

A Product-Oriented Thinker

Anything we do should eventually serve the business. A leader should be product-oriented — A Product Owner (even when not a PO in a formal way).

  • Understands the business goals of the organization.
  • Works with the partner Product Manager to derive the goals for his team. Makes the necessary steps to achieve those goals.
  • Knows the field — familiar with the competitors, understand the customers’ profile, needs, pains and challenges. Familiar with the sales people’s requests and challenges. Understands the support team’s day to day work and their challenges.
  • Recognizes and takes an active part in formulating the vision and roadmap of the product.
  • Initiates and pushes for innovation, creativity, and originality in the product and in the value that we provide to customers.

How to Use This

As a team leader, you should know your strengths, and try to find the right team to lead that will enable you to utilize those strengths.

I believe that a team leader must have all those 4 pillars. The intensity of each one depends on the situation and the dynamic in the team. For example, a leader of a team that has no senior technical people should emphasize on technical growth, and on improving his team members’ skills. On the other hand, if the team has more senior members than less experienced ones, then the focus can be on mentoring some of the seniors so they can train and grow the other members. Similarly, if the team has no Product Manager to partner with, then the team leader should step into the PM role, and maybe invest less in other areas.

If you’re a manager of managers, you may want to analyze what are the strengths and weaknesses of each of your leads, and what are the required skills in each of the teams. As always, you should try to match the leads to the teams that they will be most valuable.

It is also useful to share this openly with people with managerial aspirations. It can be used to discuss what they need to learn and practice. This way they will be ready for their next role when the opportunity arises.


This is one view of the role of a leader. You may have a different one and that’s ok, or you may agree with some of the points and have others in your mind. The important thing, in my mind, is to have a clear view of your perception of a team leader, and work according to it.

Whether you’re a manager of managers, or if you’re growing managers in your team — I hope this will motivate you to share your thoughts and expectations openly.



Shay Mandel

Software Executive and Entrepreneur in heart. Avid bike rider (MTB/XC/Road)