Effectively leading from a distance has evolved to being a critical leadership skill for a growing number of leaders across nearly every sector of the workplace. While core leadership and managerial skills remain as foundational requirements for success, applying these skills from a distance is the essential capability for continued leadership effectiveness.
Leading remote employees, virtual teams, or distance partners requires an emphasis on three key dynamics and an understanding of how these impact leading in a virtual work environment:
Building and maintaining trust is no easy task in traditional work settings. But it's even more challenging for geographically-dispersed teams. Distance, along with absence of face-to-face interaction, can strain relationships and undermine trust. Leaders of virtual organizations must foster trust in relationships with teams, colleagues, subordinates and superiors.
Clear, timely and frequent communication is vital to bridging distances in the virtual workplace. Leading from a distance requires the use of various technologies for communication, understanding which tools to use in different situations, and an awareness of the appropriate amount of communication for various needs. A skilled virtual leader communicates effectively with team members, leads productive and engaging virtual meetings, and facilitates team development through successful use of diverse communication tools.
The virtual environment provides unique performance management challenges. Addressing these effectively and proactively will have a positive impact on productivity, morale and results. Understanding the importance of meaningful performance measures based on results (vs. 'face-time') is essential to the success of the leader, members of the virtual team and the organization.
VirtualWorks! offers workshops for leaders of virtual teams, as well as coaching for virtual team development. Leaders can gain key insights from our learning resources, including the How to Lead From a Distance and Managing Telecommuters Coaching Kit.