Leadership is a complex task and has been an ongoing topic of research for many years among experts. Yet, we are far away from unraveling the secrets of the most effective styles and techniques of leadership. On top of that, we now have another aspect of leadership in the present day business environment - remote leadership which brings forth many new questions, adds further to those complexities, and provides only a few answers. No doubt, under such circumstances, it become even more important to learn how to effectively lead remote teams. But until such time that facts emerge and provide some direction to effective leadership styles for remote teams, perhaps some common sense and a few of these theoretical tips can help.
Focus on communications
The golden rule to effective lead a remote team is to focus on the communications. The goal here is not only to communicate but also to ensure that there is no visible lag in communications either, as if the team members are collocated in the same premises. In order to achieve that, it is essential for leaders to build a trust and rapport with the remote team members along with a strong perception of social bonding and support that is often easy for a collocated team to achieve. Frequent, scheduled communications can help in achieving that easily while ensuring that team members do not feel overwhelmed or micromanaged at any time.
Pay attention to the medium and content
Remote leaders need to pay special attention to the medium and content of messages as well. Cultural and individual factors must be considered with utmost care. What’s acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable in another. Organizational and national infrastructural considerations are also integral to the process. The same kind of internet bandwidth or hardware may not available at all places.
It is the task of the leader to understand such circumstances for every member of the remote team and ensure that infrastructural and cultural factors do not hinder the performance of the remote team members.
Free flow of information
Remote teams always face the danger of roadblocks in the flow of information which may lead to severe negative consequences. When the flow of information is hindered, remote team may lose their confidence in the leader. They might feel marginalized and out of control. As a result, their contributions dwindle and so does their productivity. To be a highly effective leader of a remote team, you need to ensure that this never happens. Share your decision making rationale, explain the corporate drivers and issues with them to ensure that a strong bond of cohesiveness is built with every remote team member.
In conclusion, even though the secrets to effective leadership, whether of the traditional style or remote style, are yet to be unraveled, one thing is for sure - it is trust that works as a glue to hold a team together and enables it to work efficiently. And it is as important for a remote team as it is for any collocated team to first work on building a relationship of trust and then aim to achieve the targets of the corporate world. Although few, the points above are sure to help you as a leader or even a member of a remote team to start on that path and reach out for success.