In 2020, more people than before ever got a taste of what it would be like to work from home permanently. While some American workers do intend to eventually return to the office, companies all over the country are weighing their options and thinking about keeping their offices virtual. To do this effectively they need to consider their virtual leadership strategies.
If you have a remote business or if you’re considering taking your team fully remote, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 36.2 million Americans will be remote workers by 2025. Many companies are realizing that a remote workplace not only saves money but also offers employees a better quality of life and improves productivity.
Even if your employees won’t be working remotely all the time, there’s a good chance they’ll have the opportunity to work from home at least part of the time. This is a trend that’s only going to continue to grow, especially after the pandemic. Many top candidates will expect some flexibility, as long as the work can be done from home.
So, how can you ensure that you’re leading your remote team to their full potential? Here are some virtual leadership strategies you can use to build a motivated, collaborative team, even if you’re never in the same physical space together.
Use Motivational, Effective Virtual Leadership Styles
There are several different leadership styles you can use to bring out the best in your team, but these philosophies all have one thing in common: they motivate people. Motivated employees will be happier and more productive workers, benefiting the company and the individual. Here are some of the most effective virtual leadership styles.
1. Participative – Collaboration and Trust
Participative leadership involves bringing your team in on business decisions and having them give their input. This creates a collaborative, transparent atmosphere that helps team members feel valued. They know their voice is being heard and they understand that they’re part of something that’s larger than themselves.
Leaders who take the participative approach are encouraging and value creativity. They can quickly build essential trust and create strong team bonds that help their employees do their best work together.
2. Transformative – Creativity and Big Ideas
Transformative leaders have a vision. Their sense of purpose guides them and they work toward a larger goal or vision and inspire others to do the same. They lead by example, use charisma, and encourage innovation and creativity.
This “big-picture” leadership style is all about positive change and big thinking. Trust and buy-in are key to achieving an organizational vision.
3. Situational Leadership – Flexibility and Empathy
All great leaders understand that their employees are complex individuals, influenced not only by their personality and preferences but also by their environment and expectations as well. Situational leadership recognizes these differences and emphasizes adaptability, self-awareness, and evolution. Communication is one of the most important skills in situational leadership.
Habits and Characteristics of Strong Leaders
Strong leaders inspire their team members by example—they are role models and must behave according to the highest standards. They build trust with empathy, transparency, accountability, and ethics. Communication and building strong relationships with each individual are important to them and allow them to build loyalty that pushes people to do their best.
Ethical leaders must have a great deal of character and self-awareness. They must stay humble and continue to improve themselves while being able to see their own strengths and weaknesses. Employees want to see a leader who truly cares about the team and the larger company vision.
Building Trust with Communication and Consistency
It’s easy to get lazy about communication, especially when your team is just down the hall. But when you’re leading a virtual team, communication must be consistent, frequent, and clear. You can’t get away with lazy communication when you’re all sitting at your own computers, miles away from each other.
Disconnection and poor communication are common pitfalls of remote work. You can reduce this issue by continually working on your own communication skills, checking in with team members regularly, encouraging an environment of collaboration, and being reliable about keeping your promises.
Have regular check-ins with each team member, in addition to all-hands meetings. One-on-one meetings are important for building trust and knowing how each person is doing. Be transparent and consistent in everything you do, ask for feedback and ideas whenever you can, and remember to celebrate your team’s successes! You’re in this together.
Do you have virtual leadership strategies to enable your business to operate remotely?
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.