How to Cultivate Leadership in a Remote Working World


It can be challenging to cultivate leadership in a virtual workspace. We often identify a leader by their presence, and not being physically present with your team makes it much harder to establish bonds and raise your profile.

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So, how do we cultivate leadership in a remote working world? Leaders are responsible for navigating this cultural shift and providing value, support, and freedom to their team without forfeiting the efficacy of 'on the ground' operations.

Even before the pandemic hit, remote working was on an upward trajectory. Since 2009, the number of people who work from home has risen by 159%. COVID-19 is partly to blame for the increase in home working, however, with fifty of the biggest UK employers claiming they have no plans to return staff to the office full-time, it looks like remote culture is here to stay. 

Take Advantage of Technology 

Since remote culture sometimes involves tuning in from different time zones and managing cross-country and cross-organisational boundaries, establishing leadership online requires streamlining collaboration and building community via technology. 

Leaders should delegate someone to research the latest and most practical online tools to help their team progress and stay on the same page. Remember that remote employee productivity will largely depend on their home-office arrangements, so making sure that everyone is kitted out with the proper digital devices is a must. 

Make Yourself Seen 

The absence of in-person engagement means that a big part of modern leadership is establishing visibility through live interaction with a camera. Camera-time might be the only occasion you’re directly visible to employees. Therefore, everything from your background, tone of voice, stance, and eye contact matters to your image.

Share The Mic 

Exemplary leadership isn't defined by how long you spend talking but by promoting and nurturing meaningful relationships. When people feel heard, they are more likely to listen in return. So make sure you give employees enough time to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. 

When tuning in online, it can also be harder to read body language and visual cues, so actively listen to what speakers are saying and pay attention to how they’re saying it. 

Make Yourself Available  

When it comes to remote work management, leaders should schedule regular, intentional updates. For example, setting up a virtual office hour, afternoon, or day can ensure colleagues and seniors have valuable 1-1 time with you. 

Give staff access to your calendar and allow them to book time slots each week where they can voice any concerns or queries. There is rarely enough time at the beginning of virtual group gatherings for employees to discuss personal projects, career goals, or wellbeing. These virtual slots provide them with a confidential space to communicate anything they want to share. 

Actively Seek to Support Your Colleagues

Beyond making themselves available, premium leaders go the extra mile to support their staff. Being proactive and taking the time to send a few messages or simply passing on a potentially helpful resource demonstrates dedication, compassion, and awareness - highly sought-after leadership traits. 

Set Clear Boundaries 

Boundaries can improve business performance by providing more structure to the working day and allowing employees to optimise their time. They also foster a healthier approach to remote work management and demonstrate respect for one another's time. For example, while working late or being available for spur-of-the-moment meetings is necessary, leaders should actively encourage not scheduling meetings before or after work hours and discourage last-minute meetings whenever possible. 

Encourage Independent Working 

A sign of effective leadership is trust. Employees feel empowered when they can work independently, which leads to increased productivity and engagement with the company's vision. 

If leaders are too involved in projects, team members can become overly dependent on their input and no longer take any initiative or push themselves. To boost rapport and respect with and from team members, leaders should strike a balance between being available for insight and support while appreciating the space and time of individuals to pursue assignments - and not overloading them with messages. 

Optimise Communication 

Sound leadership involves helping staff get by and thrive in the virtual workspace. Since there's less chance of crossing paths in the lobby or on your way to your next meeting, an extra effort needs to be made for employees to feel connected. 

Nurturing company-wide wellbeing and a strong community rely on intentional digital communication. So, in addition to the usual daily briefing and housekeeping emails, consider a weekly update newsletter that focuses on trumpeting your team's progress. These shout-outs will help employees feel seen and valued by you as their senior and the rest of the team - essential for improving remote culture and morale

Set Clear Performance Indicators 

Remote employees may have the beauty of deciding where and when they want to work, but they still require transparent directives from managers to stay on course. 

Goals are crucial to remote work management and career development; for structure, managing expectations, and enhancing remote-office culture. They can also give employees a sense of control over their prospects which can be essential after a rocky start to the new decade. 

Using assignment management tools is an effective way to create project roadmaps and present specific deadlines. In addition, these roadmaps can include milestone reminders and group conferences to keep the team on track. 

Concrete objectives will encourage individual and team engagement around measurable goals and focus company efforts throughout the organisation.   

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