We have more long-distance leaders than ever before. Perhaps you were assigned this type of leadership or maybe you found yourself here unexpectedly because of COVID-19. Either way, here you are! 

Your team deserves great leadership regardless of if they are always together or not. You’ll need to make some adjustments in your leadership in order to be impactful from long distances. 

Understand that you will have to lead differently


Before you begin the journey of becoming a great long-distance leader you need to understand that you are going to have to lead differently.  Your communication style should change, your topics of discussion will likely change to some degree and how you connect and build relationships will certainly be different. 

Have the self-awareness to know that there is a transition period and don’t be too hard on yourself during this time. It’s likely that both you and your team are figuring out a new dynamic. As a result, expect a slightly less efficient period as they make adjustments to new working scenarios. 

Support your team as they make the transition as well. They may not have the same access as you or perhaps they aren’t as familiar with technology as you are. Cut them a little bit of slack and give them the resources needed with care and compassion. 

Who you are as a leader does not change, but how you lead definitely will if you want to be a successful long-distance leader. 

Learn and match the person’s communication style


I talk a lot about adjusting your communication style to your audience, and this is especially important for leading remote teams. Understand that each person has their own preference in how they want to be communicated with. Some may prefer an email, others texts, some love calls, and others want to use messaging apps. 

Adapt to your team instead of expecting them to adapt to you. Let’s say both Scott and Mary are co-workers on the same project. You may text Scott to check-in and his status and you may have a 15-minute call with Mary about the same subject. 

Leverage technology instead of using it as a barrier


Technology can become a great tool or a big excuse for a leader when leading remotely. You may feel like you can’t meet as often with others because you don’t see them anymore and no longer have that natural impromptu time together. Lean into text or instant messages for quick check-ins and keep your schedule with one-on-ones and team meetings. I would recommend a video option above a call-in feature if available. Some good video options include:

  • Google Hangouts & Classrooms
  • Microsoft Skype & Teams
  • Zoom
  • Webex
  • GoToMeeting
  • Signal

Is a video the same as an in-person option? No, but it can be very close and a solid video option can help you and others that need of connection that we all crave. 

Balance your workload and establish boundaries


When you and your team are working across a virtual environment it can be both tempting and easy to work into the late hours of the night and end up working even more than you did when you were in an office. Is that needed at times? Absolutely. Should it become a habit? Absolutely not. 

Establish your boundaries and keep them for both yourself and for others on your team. If you are sending emails all through the night, your team may feel like they aren’t doing enough if they aren’t immediately responding back. It may not be your intention to pull that person back on to the clock, but if they are constantly getting notifications in their email and texts, then you aren’t allowing them to enjoy their time off. 

If you are a night owl, let your team know that they don’t need to respond to your messages until the next day. An even better strategy would be to write your emails and schedule them to go out the next morning. 

Be sure that your team is taking its normal breaks and meal times just like they were in the office. Keeping a normal routine is essential to great productivity. 

Change your leadership tactics and communication styles while holding true to your boundaries and leveraging technology to its fullest potential. You can be a highly effective and admired long-distance leader. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH