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Michaela Kühn

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Virtual leadership: Living at a distance and lead close

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Virtual leadership or "remote leadership" is not a new invention. With the beginning of digitalization and especially globalization, this type of leadership is an important topic. Today, teams are already sitting at their desks throughout Germany or even scattered around the world and it is important to keep in touch. And to lead these teams in order to achieve goals or implement ideas together.

Virtual leadership: Living at a distance and lead close

Virtual leadership or "remote leadership" is not a new invention. Exceptional situations such as the Corona crisis let us all lead virtually overnight.

However, exceptional situations such as the current corona crisis may place new demands on us. Suddenly almost all managers are confronted with the topic of virtual leadership. Employees can only work from their home office, and not only in exceptional cases but "until further notice".

This type of leadership is usually difficult. We are often used to fixed hierarchies, the classic waterfall tour, so to speak. The way of cooperation changes with increasing agility and spatial distance. Ideally, we grow together with the changing world of work and associated tasks. Many employers did not have this acclimatization period due to the Covid-19. Almost overnight, managers are faced with new challenges.

What is virtual leadership and what does it depend on?

For virtual teams to be successful, good leadership is just as important as in present teams. Maybe even more important when employees cannot see each other personally. It needs transparency and trust. Because virtual leadership means giving up control. It is important - especially in a time of #SocialDistancing - to create a sense of unity. Show your team that everyone is an important part of a meaningful whole.

  • Adapt the nature of your leadership to the circumstances.
    It starts with you as leaders. Be a role model for your employees and communicate clearly and unambiguously. Prepare your meetings carefully and document the results. This creates transparency and solidarity in the team. Control is not the solution, but trust.
    Decide together with the team which software solutions you want to use. Whether for your meetings, telephone calls, appointments or knowledge management. Develop your own infrastructure step by step. It should help you to work together effectively and productively
  • Listen and read between the lines.
    Regular feedback meetings with your employees are always important, whether in personal or virtual meetings. Listen carefully so that you can identify conflicts or problems in time. You should also be available for your team in addition to scheduled feedback meetings.
  • Without rules and discipline it is not possible.
    Roles, tasks and areas of responsibility should be clearly defined and distributed within the team. Create common rules for the exchange. Everyone must adhere to these rules. This also applies to deadlines. Be a role model yourself and stick to them.
  • It should be fun too!
    With all seriousness: the fun must not be lost. Why not do a team building online? Why not vote on work topics or even team-related topics? Celebrate success together virtually via WebEx or Skype. A Friday ritual at the end of the week would also be a possibility. Get creative and ask your employees.

Virtual leadership or also "remote leadership" is not witchcraft. Trust, transparency and listening are the basis. Together with rules that are jointly defined in the team, forms the framework for a successful virtual collaboration. And don't forget to say thank you! It is a challenging time for everyone - whether manager or employee - which we have to master together.

Do you already have experience with virtual teams? What tips do you have? Share your experiences in the LinkedIn group Digital X.

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