Contemporary Thinking On Virtual Leadership
“I’m spending most of my time travelling, with little time to really make a proper team contribution and I'm going home too exhausted to spend any quality time with my family”
This quotation was spoken by a leader, who recently arrived at one of our workshops looking tired and grey, confirming that we’ve still got a lot to learn about Virtual Leadership or “Leadership at a Distance”.
Our recent research and subsequent leadership workshops in this field focus on the leadership required to overcome three barriers common to all virtual team situations: geography, isolation and history. Geography is about people seeing themselves as separate; isolation keeps them from knowing one another and history relates to their long-term experience of working in independent, not unified teams.
At first glance, these are all fairly obvious but the solutions to the five leadership challenges they generate are less clear. How does a virtual leader:
- Create unity behind the whole team, rather than the local goals?
- Move the decision-making focus to the whole team priorities?
- Increase the tangibility of the whole team objectives?
- Move disparate teams from competition to collaboration?
- Establish trust
Contemporary leadership solutions that we develop in our workshops include:
- Empowering - giving local leaders and local teams control over themselves.
- Trusting the leader, the project or the organisation and other team partners.
- Building strong symbols around the prestige, values and benefits of partnership.
- Designing practical processes for learning and sharing.
- Nurturing intellectual/emotional links for prioritising work and effort.
- Ensuring consistency - balance and fairness regardless of distance from the Centre.
- Communicating - using visual, hands-on and verbal anchors.
Whilst some of these can be supported by new digital solutions, these in themselves will not provide the overall solution.
If you would like a copy of our free diagnostic checklist which expands on how to approach each of these areas, please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.