How to Lead Remotely and in a Constantly Changing Environment?

The COVID pandemic led many countries to enforce a national lockdown, impacting a social and professional work setting. There has already been a remote working trend; however, the lockdown accelerated the trend. Thus, leaders now have to lead remotely. In-person leadership is different from remote leadership. One key difference is how they distinguish themselves from the rest of the team. 

  • Remote leader: Logistical coordination rather than through expertise, by monitoring team progress and coordinating team members, a mixture of soft and hard skills 
  • In-person leader: Demonstrates traits that we all typically imagine when conjuring a leadership vision, usually personality traits. This is usually easier perceived in person than virtually. 

Learn more about the difference between In-person leadership and remote leadership.

More than 20% of the workers could operate as easily at home three to five days a week as they could in an office if remote work is commonplace at that rate, three or four times as many people would be working from home than before the pandemic. Therefore, having adequate leaders for the growing trend of remote workers is necessary for business success. 

What makes a remote leader successful? 

Virtual teams informally anoint leaders who do the job of getting tasks done, rather than finding the most dynamic personalities in the room, as effective virtual leaders. They assist other staff members with activities to keep the group on track and concentrating on their objectives.

Some successful traits of virtual leaders are: 

  • Doers 
  • Goal-focused
  • Productive
  • Dependable
  • Helpful

The perceived trend is that in person, people find leaders that give them energy and motivation. However, virtually those traits are difficult to transmit. Therefore, the traits of virtual leaders are responsible and dependable traits are more valuable in that circumstance. 

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

Douglas MacArthur

Though virtual leadership is oriented to get things done, it does not provide support to help each team member achieve their personal goals. This is especially challenging when trying to lead remotely to build a shared vision with the team members. Thus, transformational leadership during the pandemic with some key traits seen in virtual leadership would have been ideal. 

However, this is challenging to do successfully since individual team members must motivate themselves to complete tasks. The remote leader is acting as an entity to provide structure and clarity through the working process. 

Regardless, with the remote leader using some of the practices of a transformational leadership style in a one-on-one setting with each team member, they can create a healthier mix. Thus, encompassing the team’s needs, where they can meet the business and personal objectives.

COVID has all taught us that things are dynamic and constantly changing within every second of the day. Therefore, business leaders have to be dynamic as well. A good leader is constantly adapting. Thus Harvard Business Review recommends an adaptive leadership style, encompassing the 4 A’s.

  • Anticipation of possible future needs, trends and options.
  • Articulation of these needs to build shared understanding and support for action.
  • Adaptation so that there is permanent learning and the adjustment of responses as necessary.
  • Accountability, including total transparency in decision making processes and openness to challenges and feedback.

Though this style is usually used in a large-scale international setting, methods are applicable on a small scale with just a team of 5-10 people. 

2020 has again highlighted the importance of adapting leadership styles in different situations. Virtual leaders are different from in-person leaders. Nonetheless, in-person leaders should incorporate some of the qualities of in-person leaders in virtual leadership to encourage motivation feasible by transforming a leadership style.

However, the most important leadership style that 2020 has presented to us is the adaptive leadership style. Leaders can identify, trends communicate accordingly, adjust to the needs and be accountable with every action. To learn more about leadership, join Expert Circle!

Elisabeth Klingler

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