Many have predicted that the general workforce will move remotely, and due to the pandemic, this paradigm shift accelerated exponentially. With remote work or telecommuting, leadership styles need to change. The efficiency of traditional ranks and hierarchies will be challenged if you want productivity in the workplace.
Virtual leadership and remote work offer challenges that you won’t experience in traditional roles. Breakdowns in communication, loss of morale, and even issues with work-life balance are possible. How do you cope?
Finding the right leadership style can help you manage a fledgling remote team. Your goal is to encourage collaboration and get results without a loss in productivity. Here are x leadership styles that should be effective for your remote workers. These styles should give you an idea of the best way to motivate your team.
1. Authoritarian Leadership
Authoritarian leadership is going out of fashion and for a reason. If you want your team to avoid burnout while working remotely, running your business like a mob or a dictatorial government will bring you nowhere. This kind of leadership concentrates power at the top, leaving a chain of command trickling down. Even then, there are situations where authoritarian leaderships work.
In a business environment, leaders should never become authoritarians unless there is an existing crisis. Crises need efficient and effective leadership that can do quick, decisive actions. Authoritarian leaders thrive in such situations but remote businesses need more than such leadership.
Cultivating a culture of fear with your team may lead to a lack of engagement. It removes valuable opinions, creative freedom, and points of view that can lead to a growing business. It’s best to use your authority only when there is an event that needs you to make mission-critical, minute-to-minute decisions.
2. Participative Leadership
Participative leadership styles do as they say on the tin: they maximize participation and engagement across their remote workers, inviting employees to input towards decisions. This system, also known as democratic leadership, lets everyone participate in the growth of the company.
When you’re in a participative environment, you need to encourage team-based activities. You would need to do consistent virtual meetings and try different ways to stimulate the right answers out of your people. This process can be quite effective, especially if your workers need to have their morale consistently high to help with productivity and creativity.
The issue with democratic leadership comes from its lack of agility. As decision-making happens with your employees, turn-around can be slow. Unless everyone is clear with the roles that you give, there can be a level of overlap of work or missed activities.
Even then, participative styles thrive under pressure. As you trust your workers to use good judgment with decisions, you can build a remote team that can operate on its own.
3. Transactional Leadership
Another powerful leadership style that works in between an authoritarian leadership style and democratic leadership is transactional leadership. Much like when you employ a learning management system, it’s a style that works with a give-and-take relationship in mind.
Virtual workers are empowered by potential rewards and punishments within the organization. Rewards can be as simple as praise, a team party, bonuses, and much more. Transactional leaders can clear generalized confusion and doubts within the system as they can be clear and precise with what they want to happen. Such environments also foster feedback from employees, usually allowing remote workers to provide a way to improve on the leader’s idea.
Regardless, transactional leadership styles don’t have the same creative and motivational freedom that democratic leadership has. It offers far more agility and speed in decision-making but engagement can be limited due to the more rigid style.
Punishments can also corrode team morale, especially if they weigh far heavier than the rewards that the team receives. As this system is highly directive, one wrong move can foster discontent across the business.
4. Situational Leadership
Situational leadership is a more uncommon approach that you’ll find in more creative and smaller businesses. If you have many remote employees with different skill sets, including a variety of personalities too. Situational leaders adapt according to which person or team they deal with.
When you’re a situational leader, your job is to be flexible, adaptable, sociable, and approachable. Depending on the needs of the company, you would need to be egalitarian. In a remote environment, you focus on helping those who are struggling with the shift more than those who adjusted quickly. As everyone has a different responsibility at work and at home, the idea is to give equity to perform within the business environment.
Situational leaders can build high morale, creativity, and release the potential of their team. Even then, not everyone is built for this style, and it can take a lot of effort and personal work for leaders involved. Flexibility is a must, otherwise, leaders will be burning more energy keeping up with the needs of every worker.
Leaders and members of small remote teams benefit more from this style compared to bigger teams. The bigger the team is, the harder it becomes to micromanage each employee’s needs. This can be resolved by breaking down big teams into smaller sub-units, but not every sub-leader can be expected to follow through the same style.
5. Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership is a process where you, as the leader, push your followers to build on your vision. Powered by purpose, remote workers are carried by leaders who don’t stay in the now, but rather push towards consistent growth and building towards the future.
When you are a transformational leader, you’re pushing your remote team to move from the conventional towards the unconventional. Challenges bring a lot of upsides, as leaders will use them as motivators towards creating big impacts and achieving more each time. Even then, transformational leadership is not for everyone.
The power of the leaders that use this method relies on charisma and the ability to build on the cult of personality. Those who don’t follow the tenets of the style within the organization will be left behind or feel isolated. Not everyone is built to lead by transformation either, as not everyone has enough charisma to run teams on emotion.
The Bottom Line
Remote worker teams are growing by the day. Done right, remote working can provide the same productivity as office environments and even more. It is imperative that you find the right leadership style that works for you and the people you lead.
See which of the styles we listed fits for you. You can pick one or combine multiple leadership styles to create your own. Whichever you choose, you want to lead an empowered remote team that will stay productive as you move forward.