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Leading from a Distance

Five lessons for successful virtual teaming

In these uncertain times, we believe leadership matters more than ever. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, “social distancing” is becoming a new normal. Working remotely will likely become a more common environmental factor for leaders guiding teams and organizations in the future. In this context, leaders must master virtual work environments to keep geographically dispersed team members aligned, connected, engaged and performing.

Leading a virtual team or employees who are geographically dispersed can be challenging. In our extensive research, we found that more than 25 percent of virtual teams are not fully performing and 33 percent of teams rate their virtual leaders as less than effective. Making the current situation even more difficult for many leaders is that employees are scattered across different geographic areas and have little face-to-face contact with one another; information and priorities are constantly shifting; and there is little time to address individual needs.

Leading virtually is still leadership. Effective leadership remains the best predictor of success and long-term organizational viability, and this was true even before the emergence of the pandemic crisis. Effective leaders are “impact-multipliers,” who work through people, teams and organizations and rely on attributes such as self-awareness, empathy, humility, agility and resilience, even as some of the demands of leading virtually are different.

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