Is “Remote” Leadership Really Any Different?

A lot has been written recently about working from home (WFH), hybrid models of work and collaboration, and how “the office” will never again be the same. The emphasis is typically about differences — how WFH changes the things we need to do to be good managers, team members, and leaders.

There are important differences, certainly. (For example, read Arden Coaching’s recent blog, “Reconsider Your Teams — Strategically”). But it is critically important to recognize that, in many, many respects, there are no meaningful differences between effective leadership in a conventional office setting and effective leadership in a remote or virtual setting. The fact is that the primary characteristics of leadership remain as important as ever.

How we gather and work together may be different (including how we explore and learn about specific leadership topics and methods), however, leadership qualities such as…

  • The ability to articulate a strategic perspective
  • Communication skills
  • The capacity to establish stretch goals
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • High levels of emotional intelligence
  • Resilience
  • The ability to inspire and motivate others

…Are as vital and enduring now as they ever were — regardless of the work environment in which you lead. That said, as executive coaches, we believe the evolving work reality does call for higher levels of emphasis in two leadership areas.

Emotional intelligence is more important than ever

Emotional intelligence is a way of thinking about the capacity you have to successfully manage yourself and your relationships. According to Daniel Goleman, who developed the concept, emotional intelligence is comprised of four core elements:

Self-Awareness revolves around recognition and includes having an awareness of your own emotional state, understanding how your behavior impacts others — and acknowledging how others impact you.

Social Awareness is also concerned with recognition and includes empathy, discerning the mood and emotional state of others, and strong listening skills.

Relationship Management is your ability to regulate your behavior with others — based on your awareness — and encompasses getting along well with others, influencing and inspiring others, teamwork, and handling conflict effectively.

Self-Management is your ability to regulate your personal behavior — also based on your awareness — and includes emotional self-control, adaptability, and maintaining a positive outlook.

Awareness is essential, but acting on that awareness is what builds and demonstrates true emotional intelligence.

Effective communication skills are in high demand

Strong communication skills are crucial for executive leadership. “Communication” covers a lot of territory, but it’s not simply “how to talk to people.” Consider the following core skills in our new work environments:

Encouragement — Effective communicators value participation from others, and support the open sharing of thoughts, ideas, and the contributions of others. They empower people to become their best-self.

What’s one piece of work you can acknowledge someone on your team for this week? (Hint: practice acknowledging something specific they did, or their effort, rather than simply thanking them for the product.)

Feedback — Skilled communicators create strategies and techniques to offer (and receive) productive feedback in ways that are useful, and not perceived as demeaning, rancorous, or intimidating.

You likely give feedback to your direct reports regularly, but when’s the last time you ASKED for it? Ask one person for feedback on something this week!

Expression — Impactful communicators articulate and convey ideas, strategies, and organizational tactics in a way that is interesting, compelling, and in which the listener understands both the big-picture value and “what’s in it for them.”

When you present your next new idea at a meeting this week or next, what if you planned very specifically how you will present it? Imagine that your audience will only ever get 30 seconds to inform and inspire — what would you say?

Listening — Communicating includes listening too! As the saying goes, “You have two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion.” Great communicators have superior listening skills. They take everything into account in the moment — what the speaker is saying, their body language, their tone of voice, the environment, the circumstances of the conversation, and what the listener him/herself is feeling and observing in response. 

Pick a topic you know more than anyone about. Now go ask for someone’s opinion that’s the opposite of yours. Listen to their explanation with sincere curiosity. Do not reply with your own opinion. Just listen with an open, inquisitive mind. Note what perspective you gain.

Executives need to sharpen these skills for them (and their organizations) to move forward. (Learn more about improving communication skills).

To learn more about strengthening your leadership skills — no matter what your workplace environment — contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.