How to Be a Great Remote Leader
According to FlexJobs, millions of Americans shifted to remote work in 2020. Other studies conducted in 2020 conclude that the growth rate for full-time remote work is expected to double over the next five years. As shown in a 2020 survey by Gartner, over 80% of business leaders planned to allow employees to work remotely at least some of the time after the COVID-19 pandemic.
But like on-site employees, remote workers need ongoing professional guidance and support in order to be productive. For this reason, there's a growing demand for remote leaders. As explained in a 2021 report by SHRM, job postings for senior-level remote positions surged by 22% in the past year.
To lead their team toward success, remote leaders need certain traits, including the ability to get things done, stellar communication skills and responsiveness.
Ability to get things done
BBC Worklife reported on a survey that tracked 220 U.S. team members to determine the types of leaders they would choose in face-to-face, remote and hybrid work settings.
The team members who were in face-to-face settings chose leaders with many of the values that are often seen in organizational leaders, such as confidence, magnetism and "smart-seeming extroverted traits."
Those who were selected as remote leaders were more action-oriented, with a propensity for planning, providing employees with the necessary resources, staying on top of upcoming tasks and, above all, getting the job done. BBC Worklife says, "These leaders were goal-focused, productive, dependable and helpful."
Basically, with remote leadership, "the emphasis shifts from saying to doing."
Stellar communication skills
Remote work physically distances employees from each other and their managers. Without frequent, meaningful interactions, remote employees may feel lost and alone. Good remote leaders understand the importance of regularly connecting with their team, to ensure each member's needs are being met.
These leaders use the communication channels that work best for them and their team, such as email, text, phone and/or video. They perform regular check-ins, without micromanaging, so that employees do not feel isolated. They keep employees informed on their daily activities and their performance. They encourage employees to provide feedback on their work processes and to share ideas for improvement.
Keenly aware of the potential for disengagement, successful remote leaders work hard to motivate and engage their team. In addition, they have sound writing skills, as remote work often relies heavily on emails and other forms of written communication.
Remote employees do not have the luxury of tapping on their bosses' office doors whenever necessary and sitting down for in-person chats. Therefore, remote leaders must implement measures that make it easy for their team to get in touch with them.
They can also use digital calendars to record and share their availability, so team members know when to reach them. They should be clear about whom to contact if they are not available, including during emergencies.