Leading in a Virtual World,
Embracing Virtual Leadership
By Marisa Rivera
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to re-think our
values, priorities, and the way we conduct work. We have
changed how we work, shop, provide and receive services,
educate our children, and interact with others. One of the most
significant changes here to stay is working remotely and leading
virtual teams. When the pandemic hit, hundreds of thousands of
companies and governments had to switch their workforce to virtual in a matter
of days. Now, it is hard for many of these businesses to imagine ever going back
to being in the office full-time. About 74 percent of companies plan to shift some
of their employees to remote working permanently after COVID-19 (Gartner).
A study by Development Dimensions International (DDI) with 15,000
leaders found that leading virtual teams is one of the skills leaders struggle with
today. Eighty-five percent of employees confirm that their productivity has
increased in their business because of greater flexibility (Int’l Workplace Group).
Why not continue working remotely?
This new type of leader needs to focus more on setting clear expectations
and goals and creating a culture of accountability and flexibility.
Shifting to virtual leadership requires several essential skills to be
1) Empathy and emotional intelligence are the heart of virtual
leadership: To be an excellent virtual leader, you need to get in touch with your
team members at an emotional level and be completely honest and transparent
when sharing information. When you lead with empathy, you create an element
of humanity in an otherwise detached virtual environment.
2) Staying in contact with remote employees: setting up weekly
catch-up calls or having frequent team meetings is required. No matter how it
is done, the virtual leader needs to be proactive about staying in contact with the
3) Communicating vision and purpose: An effective leader should
always communicate the vision and purpose of the work they do. A virtual leader
should be able to translate the company strategy into the vision and purpose for
the team so they can perform at their very best.
4) Work expectations and goals: measure employee’s performance
through outcomes and goals completion, not by the physical location or hours
they worked to complete the task.
5) Provide clear and concise communication: Use appropriate
channels for your communication and set expectations on how the
communication channels are to be used. For example, discuss when it’s
appropriate to use instant message, email, and virtual meetings. Understand
when a meeting is necessary versus making a quick announcement.
6) Verbal delivery: is a key part of virtual meetings. Ensure you don’t
talk too fast or too long, others on the call might miss what you’re saying.
Practice and ask for feedback from others.
7) Work-life meets with home life: Working remotely can cause many
people to struggle to disconnect from work, leading to burnout and reduced
work quality. Employees need understanding and empathy from their leader.
Being able to draw boundaries between work and family life is important to
incorporate to retain your employees. Working from home does not mean you
have to work 24-7.
Working remotely offers employees greater flexibility, not only on where they
live but also on what exact hours they work. The virtual work is here to stay. Let’s
prepare and embrace virtual leadership and virtual workplaces.
Marisa Rivera is president of Mpowerment Works, a LS
motivational speaker, executive coach and leadership and
empowerment consultant. Marisa@MpowermentWorks.com.
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