The Remote Leader: A New Type of LeadershipPublié le 26 August 2021
Adapting the traditional workplace to the virtual one requires a new type of leadership and a new type of leader: The Remote Leader.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented change to people working in all types of industries. Business leaders have had to adapt to drastically different working arrangements, with millions of people working remotely from home. As a remote leader, you don’t want to simply keep things operating the same as they were before, but rather to continue to grow a successful business while ensuring employees are satisfied. This raises an important question: How do old leadership practices translate into this new reality of remote leadership? You need to consider how to answer this question and become a remote leader and provide a new type of leadership that inspires employees to perform at their best .
So how do you do that?
In their book The Long-Distance Leader, Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, authors and leadership consultants Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel explain that strong leadership calls for four key factors:
We’re going to take a look at each of those attributes – and how they can be adapted for remote work and put into practice by all types of leaders, from supervisors to CEOs.
Above all, as a good leader, you need to have and (crucially!) communicate a clear vision for your company or your team.
This isn’t simply about crafting a “vision statement” that gets placed in your company’s knowledge base and never looked at again.
Instead, it’s about having a clear, compelling vision that:
- Let everyone know what you’re working toward as a company.
- Inspires and encourages your employees.
- Fits seamlessly with your company values.
When you’re leading a remote team, the quality of your vision is what helps keep everyone on track. Instead of your employees feeling like separate cogs in a big virtual machine (potentially leading to burnout), they’re pulling together to play an important role in moving the company toward its goals.
As a remote leader, you might have a vision not just for the company itself, but also for how remote work might look – for yourself and for other remote workers.
For instance, journalist Anne Helen Petersen draws a vivid vision of how remote work can look in The Future of Remote Work is the Opposite of Lonely:
“Time, during the day, to go to the grocery store, to mail a package, to go play with a friend’s kid for an hour, to take a nap, to read a book for research in the sun, to take a work call while walking the dog. Maybe I have a lot of concentrated work on a Thursday, and then do an interview on a Friday and go skiing.”
It’s important that the remote leader of a workplace puts thought and care into how best to adapt the virtual workplace to meet changing employee needs. Their vision will help keep the company on track and satisfy employees.
As a remote leader without the typical face-to-face interaction of the traditional workplace, it may feel like your power rests in your authority. After all, you have the ability to assign work, to give orders, to set goals for your remote workers, and perhaps even to hire and fire people.
But generally, you don’t need to lean solely on your authority to get things done. Instead, you can take a softer approach and rely on the influence you have over your staff – and even over people who don’t report directly to you.
Your influence is based, to a large extent, on how people view you at work. Leading by example can be more effective than using your authority. Do you keep your promises? Do you “practice what you preach” in your virtual leadership? Then people will look to you as an example of how to thrive at your company.
When you lead by example, your remote leadership influence can even extend beyond your company. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm (India’s leading digital payments platform) was inspired by the actions of Marriott International president and CEO Arne Sorenson, who gave up his salary for the whole of 2020. He tweeted:
“Inspired by Arne, I will not take my salary this month & next. I commit that money to any needs of @Paytm office-help-staff in these testing times.”
Imagine that instead of leading a remote team at work, you’re leading a group of walkers on a hike. You’re the one with the map and you’re at the front of the group.
Let’s say you come to a crossroads. The path you should follow looks boring – and muddy. The other path has nice views and is dry underfoot. If you turn and walk in the wrong direction, then your walking group will follow you. You might have a nice walk together … but you’ll end up at a destination you never intended to reach.
Direction is just as important in the workplace when you’re a long-distance remote leader. If you lead your team in the wrong direction, they might be perfectly happy along the way. But you won’t be moving toward your goals.
What if there are several different routes to your destination – all of which will get you there equally well? In that case, choosing the right direction with your virtual leadership means being willing to listen to the rest of your team. Which route would they prefer?
You can see the power of this type of remote management in action in this tweet, where an employee advises leaders to follow the examples of their remote CEO:
“Be like our CEO, who sent out a survey and asked us what we wanted, which resulted in some of us being permanently remote.”
The fact that the remote leader of their team was willing to listen directly to employee feedback and change the direction of the workplace to best suit their needs demonstrates the positive impact of effective remote leadership.
Whether you’re new to leadership or you’ve been a team leader or CEO for years, you want to be continually learning, improving and developing your skills as a remote leader.
Look out for areas where you could be doing better in your virtual leadership. These might be highlighted by conducting a 360-degree review, or they might be things that you know are weaknesses. For instance, maybe you’ve made a couple of bad hires in the past based on their cover letters and you want to avoid doing so in the future.
There are loads of books and courses that can help you, or you could even consider hiring a coach or consultant to help you improve and develop your virtual leadership skills.
Development is also crucial, of course, when it comes to your staff. When you’re a long-distance leader, it can be tricky to have casual conversations that might crop up at work – so you may feel out of touch with what your employees’ goals and hopes are.
As a virtual leader, you should take the time to find out what skills they’d like to develop for their resume or what promotion they’re targeting, and set work goals for them that tie in with these personal goals. You could also look for areas where they might be finding things difficult, and approach them with ways these could be adjusted.
For instance, A survey from Buffer found that 18% of staff (that’s almost 1 in 5) say that their biggest struggle with remote work is “not being able to unplug.” This is an area where you could offer coaching and also lead by example in your remote management: make sure team members know they’re only expected to be available during core working hours and consider introducing them to use time management techniques such as time blocking.
Developing your remote leadership skills takes time – so don’t be put off if you feel like you don’t yet have the rapport with your remote team that you’d like. Focus on the four attributes above and look for one small way each week to integrate each of those into the way in which you lead. This will help you become the remote leader that your virtual workplace needs and provide the new type of leadership that will benefit employees.