Leadership Looks Different For Remote Teams – Here’s How

Many teams made the move to remote work in 2020, and are continuing to do so as the COVID-19 pandemic persists into it’s tenth month. While the shift originally took place out of necessity, the benefits to this type of work structure have revealed themselves, and many teams are opting to keep remote work as a permanent or semi-permanent option moving forward – about 50%, according to a recent study. Many workers have said they thrive in this structure – but what about leaders? Managing a team under normal circumstances can be tough, but once your staff is physically dispersed, different challenges arise. A new workplace structure begs the question of whether a different leadership style would also thrive better. A recent study suggests that yes, it would.


The study found that in situations where teams are working mostly or entirely remotely, people benefited more from leaders who helped them achieve collective goals rather than merely demonstrating leadership qualities. Indeed, when working collectively from a distance, there may be a new set of hurdles to overcome to arrive at the same goals, especially if the shift to remote work is a new one. In this sense, managers that are not only able to exemplify leadership qualities but also adjust to a distanced relationship and guide their staff to success are the ideal fit.


Read on for some insight into the relatively new remote leader, and how this model can work for your business.


The Diverging Types of Leadership


There are two main styles of leadership: ascriptive and achievement. The former refers to a leader who is able to assert their leadership status by demonstrating traditional qualities, whereas the latter refers to leaders who rise to that status by guiding their team towards attaining goals and accomplishments.


Ascribed leadership is much more realistic in an in-office set up, as leaders have more chances to demonstrate specific traits to their team, such as motivation and delegation. The people surrounding a leader attribute certain traits to them based on what they see and hear, and for this reason, in-person observation is crucial for this type of leadership to succeed.


Achievement leadership describes leaders who are more focused on guiding their staff towards collective goals – their leadership qualities are noted through action rather than through disposition. Because teams aren’t interacting with one another in the same way when working remotely, the goals that they are able to reach are a more relevant measurement of success, as well as the leaders who are able to get them there.


The Traits Favourable for Remote Leaders


Regardless of your team’s current structure, many of the traits that will benefit a leader remain the same: strong communication skills, honesty and integrity, delegation, and so on. However, recent research has found that until now, 77% of leaders have never managed a fully remote team before, so the ways in which these traits are demonstrated will need to shift.


For example, a leader who is powerful at commanding a room or running an in-person meeting might have to work on their approach in order to communicate just as effectively virtually. Communicating with your remote teams is perhaps the most important skill that remote leaders can develop: keeping a dispersed team on track isn’t always easy, but various tools and approaches can make it possible.


Being empathetic and accommodating the often fluid nature of remote work are also key facets of remote leadership, and embracing the notion that as long as goals are reached, there is some flexibility to the typical 9-to-5. This kind of thinking goes hand in hand with the achievement leadership model.


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Specific Challenges for Remote Leaders


One of the benefits of in-person teams is the sense of culture and camaraderie it fosters: simply being physically around other people encourages natural communication among staff. Workplace culture has taken a substantial hit during the remote era, with only 27% of remote companies reporting a strong culture. Workplace culture is important to maintain because it can also affect critical aspects like job satisfaction and mental health. Finding ways to promote a remote workplace culture will in turn support the achievements of your team, and is a mark of a successful remote leader.


One of the largest concerns for any business, remote or not, is productivity. Nearly 8 in 10 workers say that having a remote work option increases their productivity levels, especially on individual tasks that don’t require much supervision. Still, leaders may understandably want some peace of mind in ensuring the productivity and engagement of their staff as they work from a distance.


Mindscope’s Remote Recruiting Dashboard is one of the best tools available for monitoring the productivity of remote recruiting teams without “micromanaging” or being too intrusive. Offering real-time insights into how and when your team members are interacting with the ATS, the tool measures metrics like logins and idle times, how many calls were made or interviews scheduled, so that productivity doesn’t slip.


Mindscope is closely monitoring the workplace trends of the new year and is committed to contributing to the conversation however we can. Our applicant tracking system has a number of tools that help all members of your team succeed from wherever they are. Start your free 7-day trial today.