Like it or not, coronavirus made working at home an unchosen reality for you and your workforce.

Individuals in your virtual workforce are likely to still be organised in what is now the virtual version of the team that they were in when in the office. And that virtual team now has a virtual leader.

Virtual Leadership

Some leaders are used to manging a virtual team. For example a software engineering team in eastern Europe delivering into their client manager in London. For other virtual leaders this is a completely new experience, and they will rely on their innate capability to master it.

As an Exec, responsible and accountable for the success of a significant part of your company, how do you ensure that engagement, morale and productivity is maintained when, for many, this new way of working is a challenge.

In other posts we note that digital transformation is not so much about the lack of digital tools - many companies invest heavily, but rather the need for leadership to change the organisational structure and the behaviours of those in it. The skills needed by your managers when they become virtual leaders are the same skills they - and you - need to achieve digital mastery.

So, its not the lack of tooling that is a challenge, rather its your managers' lack of experience in using them, and in using them to empower the team to work in a new way.

Virtual Leadership Skills

Digital fluency, facilitating collaboration, cultural agility, and helping others build strong networks are the top skills needed more often by virtual leaders than office leaders.

In our view, this is a prioritised list of what your virtual leaders must be good at:

  1. Tool mastery - the ability to use digital tools to communicate and collaborate with remote workers, and to use them in the natural way of a millennial.
  2. Team oneness - the ability to develop a sense of team unity, a sense of purpose and direction that they all share.
  3. Individual motivation - the ability to energise their individual team members, motivate and engage. The ability to relate to individuals and to understand and respond to their hopes and fears.
  4. A connector - the ability to help their team members reach out to others they need to be in touch with, and to build their networks.
  5. Cultural awareness - the ability to recognise that each of us has different strands to our identity, so we must be aware how others think and act, and be careful to avoid pitfalls.

Of course, the list above is just as true for your leaders when they are in the office, but these traits become much more important when they need to lead teams who all sit apart.

Training designed and delivered specifically for virtual leaders is not commonly done, but is provided by 4.5 times more high-performance organisations than lower-performers. That's not surprising, because, as we've noted, these are the same skills that you need in your organisation to achieve digital mastery, and the increased revenue of those companies who are already digital masters is well documented.