Remote working (or telecommuting) has taken center stage since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While we’ve seen plenty of benefits from working remotely — cost savings, increased personal time, freedom and flexibility, and health — we also face inevitable challenges like breakdowns in communication and decreased morale and engagement.
Finding the right leadership style is a way to mitigate remote-work challenges. But, of course, we’ve known the different leadership styles for a long time now — authoritarian, laissez-faire, participative, transformational, situational, and servant leadership. Let’s examine them again, as not all of them are a good fit for remote teams.
To get remote teams to best collaborate, engage themselves, and achieve team goals, virtual leaders should incorporate both an authoritarian (concentration of decision-making at the top) and laissez-faire (delegation of decision-making to the team) leadership styles in their toolkit. Below are the leadership styles that strike a balance between these two.
Leadership Styles for Remote Workers
As the name suggests, a participative leadership style ensures that the team participates in action plans, team goals, priorities, and improvements. Participative leaders invite their teams to give input and feedback on business decisions. Also called “democratic leadership”, participative leadership enables employees to take an active role in the company’s growth. These leaders also participate in virtual team-building activities and other initiatives that can boost morale and establish trust. Some notable characteristics include:
- Encourages team activities
- Asks for input from team members
- Minimizes competition between employees
Focusing on adaptability, situational leaders in remote teams are flexible themselves. They understand that they are called up to address the challenges of a new work environment and the new communication channels. A situational leadership style also works well with teams with diverse cultures and skill sets. For example, remote DevOps engineers, customer service representatives, and technical writers would benefit from a situational approach. Leaders of smaller teams also benefit more from this approach than bigger teams as it is hard to manage individual needs when there are many employees.
Characteristics of situation leaders include:
- Utilizes other remote leadership styles together and in conjunction with the situational approach
- Good command of processes and ways to improve processes
- Self-aware and sociable
- Solid communicators
Leaders who take this approach bank on their charisma and ability to incite positivity. Transformational leadership is anchored on purpose and vision. While this approach may not be for everyone, it is an effective way to inspire and push teams to always look for opportunities for improvement and become big-picture thinkers. This works best for remote teams that envision themselves going beyond the conventional and creating a more significant impact on society and the world.
Transformational leaders usually:
- Have a great sense of purpose
- Have a good grasp of the big picture
- Work alongside the team
- Foster emotional openness
Honesty, mutual respect, and non-competitive teamwork are most important for remote servant leaders. They emphasize the importance of one-on-one conversations, feedback, motivation, leading by example, and providing the necessary tools and guidance for remote workers to do their jobs effectively. If team members fall short in their tasks, servant leaders take an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing gaps and keeping everyone on track.
- Treat other team members as equals
- Are active in brainstorming sessions
- Are compassionate and empathetic
- Are active listeners
Great Qualities of a Remote Team Leader
Whichever leadership style you choose to adopt, the following are four of the essential qualities to have to be an effective remote team leader:
Remote work poses a challenge, especially to teams that have never tried it. A remote team leader must be able to adjust to accommodate uncertainties and changing requirements of the remote set-up. Remote leaders must also be able to adapt their leadership styles according to current needs.
Remote team leaders must trust that their employees can work independently, work on tasks at hand, and meet targets even without in-person supervision. This is essential in building trust and cultivating a culture of accountability in the team.
Remote work removes the nonverbal aspect of communication. A remote leader must have the ability to communicate well with members via email, channels, phone, or video conferences to avoid gaps and assumptions.
- Work-life balance.
Remote work has a lot of benefits, but it can also cause people to lose track of their work hours. Since there’s no “going out of the office”, remote workers tend to check and answer emails and work channels all through the day. A remote team leader must serve as a work-life balance model by practicing it themselves. If the leaders don’t “log out,” the team doesn’t log out either.
How leaders lead can have as big an impact on employee performance as any policy you enact or resources you provide.
To learn more about the leadership style that would best fit for your team, contact one of our Leadership expert consultants. Or, book an introductory meeting with our Concierge team today, for free, so we can match you with the help you need.