Whether you are a Team Lead or a Manager you are now responsible for a group of people. It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s one person or five, the level of responsibility that was not previously there is now there.
At the end of the day, in the software sector, both roles will still rely on a deep passion for technology and creating innovative solutions to complex problem sets. That’s a mouthful but how else would your describe the field of software development (especially if you were trying to recruit someone).
Whenever I’ve compared these two positions I always come back to the differentiating factor between the two – the Code. As a Manager, you probably don’t have a enough time to be engaged in a 50% coding capacity whereas when you are a Team Lead you should be doing AT LEAST that amount of coding. And herein comes that odd dynamic between Manager and Team Lead where some managers struggle with – the Team Lead is the better coder, the Team Lead is consulted on architectural issues primarily because the Manager isn’t in the code as much as they were once were.
But this isn’t explained to you when you are promoted to being a Manager, no instead it’s assumed that you will know everything, be able to handle everything and not just consult with your team but… gasp… be guided by your teams in decisions that affect your entire product.
So if you want to be coding for a long period of time and learn to hone some leadership skills on the fly, become a Team Lead, if you are on the other side of the fence and want to focus more on being a leader and less on code, become a Manager.
Either is great direction.