Managing Virtual Leadership

Managing Virtual Leadership


The world is going digital which means that virtual leadership skills will become key for the successful management of remote teams. This blog details the skills virtual leaders will need to focus on.

The pandemic has impacted many things and one among them is the way people work. It introduced us to the concept of the virtual workplace. Employees could work from anywhere thanks to technology. They could work from places they were comfortable in, at timings convenient to them. Hassles of commuting through traffic snarls were reduced and the time saved put to better use.

These advantages remain after the pandemic and having been exposed to virtual workspaces, employees now expect some amount of flexibility from their employers. Employees would like to be evaluated based on the quality of their output and not on the number of hours they put in or from where they work. And as these are reasonable demands, managements of organizations have also adapted to this changing workplace scenario. When leaders listen to their employees, employee satisfaction too increases.

However, managing remote teams means handling diverse work hours and also getting used to a reduction in face-to-face interaction. Leading such teams is different from leading non-virtual teams. The leadership has the additional challenge of leading a hybrid team which is not physically present in front of them. The importance of core leadership skills like communication, transparency, etc. is magnified and virtual leaders have to tweak their style of leadership to this changing workspace.

Understanding Virtual Leadership

Virtual leadership is a management strategy that focuses on managing teams that are working remotely. Virtual leaders rely on technology to supervise employees and delegate tasks to them. They help employees stay on target and guide them towards their goal.

Virtual leaders have their task cut out for them. They need to make sure an atmosphere of mutual trust prevails – they need to have faith in their employees’ abilities and in turn their employees need to trust them for their professional development.

Establishing trust in a virtual environment is not easy. Leaders need a slightly different skill set than what is needed at a traditional office environment.

Virtual Leadership Skills

  • Ensuring Transparency:
    • This is very important if a leader is to gain employees’ trust.
    • Transparency ensures that there are no misunderstandings.
    • When data regarding work is accessible to everyone, employees understand their roles and purpose better.
    • They are able to see the bigger picture and how they contribute to organizational goals.
    • Transparency also means making sure of two-way communication.
    • The leader should able to give constructive feedback to the employees and they in turn should feel comfortable communicating their concerns to him.
    • During times of change, leaders need to make sure the employees know what is happening and if the change will affect them.
    • By ensuring transparency, an atmosphere of trust can prevail.
  • Goal Setting:
    • Leaders need to tell the employees what is expected of them in clear terms.
    • Remote teams can be hard to keep track of – leaders should focus on deadlines and task completion. Regular online interaction can identify issues before they become a problem.
    • In a remote workspace, leaders are also in the dark about the stress the employees are under. Avoiding employee burnout is essential.
  • Being Considerate:
    • Remote employees might have trouble meeting deadlines.
    • If it happens, leaders need to make sure they listen to the employees’ side of the story.
    • They should not jump to conclusions.
    • Chances are the employees might have been waiting for someone else’s assent or response before proceeding with the task at hand.
    • Or it could even be as simple as having issues with their internet connectivity or software.
    • Do not attribute missed deadlines blindly to laziness or lack of interest.
    • Communication is always a dicey issue in remote management so leaders need to make sure they show some forbearance.
    • When leaders listen to employees and understand their predicament, they can keep in mind communication issues when they assign future task deadlines.
  • Listening Skills:
    • Listening is an important attribute any leader should have but for virtual leaders it takes on a whole new meaning.
    • Their employees are not face-to-face with them.
    • Hence, they have to listen actively to pick up what might not always be expressed very well.
    • This will help identify any dissatisfaction early.
    • Employees too feel valued when they know their leaders care about them.
  • Prioritizing Communication:
    • Virtual leaders need to be proactive.
    • They need to schedule regular online meetings to stay updated with the progress of the employees.
    • If employees are working at different time zones, a time that is conducive to all should be decided on.
    • The employees should be informed well-ahead about the meeting.
Also Read: Shaping a Leader
  • Equipping Employees:
    • Leaders need to make sure employees have the right tools to carry out their tasks.
    • They need to ask the employees if they have the necessary software or equipment.
    • If the employees are being assigned something new, leaders should make sure they are trained properly for it.
    • Encouraging employees to ask for help if needed is also very important.
    • Information too needs to be managed properly so that employees have access to it whenever needed.
    • Virtual meetings can be documented so that those who missed out on the meetings can refer to them.

Virtual Leadership Is the Way of the Future

The world is going digital and virtual leadership will become crucial to the future of businesses. Being efficient and effective in managing virtual teams will determine the business’s success. Virtual leaders will need to be adept at leveraging technology to ensure communication and trust while allowing their teams some space for creativity and originality.

Leadership is not fixed. It is continually evolving to meet changing workplace dynamics. There is no hard and fast rule where leadership is concerned. While the aforementioned skills can act as pointers, eventually, leaders will develop their own styles to handle virtual teams.

Virtual leadership can be challenging but going about it the right way can eliminate most of the drawbacks associated with it.

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