New Leadership Skills for When the Team is Virtual

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Since the beginning of time, we have had leaders that are strong, focused, and competitive. Qualities like this became part of a modern-day job description, we even added skills such as:

  • Delegator

  • Problem-solver

  • Resolver of conflicts

  • Organized

  • Motivated

While these are all admirable skills for a leader, there may be other skills that are more important and useful in this work from home and virtual environment. Skills and talents to look for in this new leadership world are things like:

  • Trusting

  • Patient

  • Forgiving

  • Supportive

  • Empathetic

These skills are needed when their team is not in front of your leaders. They are needed as people are trying to orchestrate a work/life environment that works. When you have people, not in your constant view you have to trust that they will get their work done. Start by giving them some goals. Have some days and times that you check the status of their work. Answer questions, make sure goals are being met. 

Be patient. When you are not meeting with someone face-to-face daily, communication is incredibly important. Expect to give a more thorough explanation of directions and expectations and be patient if they are not clear the first time. This means you might also have to be forgiving if there is a miss in your expectations.

The two last leadership skills might be the most important. If your team or individual is working virtually, one of the best ways you can get the most from them is if you are supportive and empathetic. Your people might need better equipment, IT help, faster internet. Always assume first that they are doing the best they can with what they have. Appreciate their resourcefulness if that comes into play. Most of all be understanding if something in your business goes off-track or if something happens in their life that goes off track. An unbelievable number of things can happen and you need to be the leader to help them through these added and unexpected struggles.

These “new” leadership skills have become so important that companies are investing in getting their best leaders the training they need to lead a virtual team. The best leaders are going to be able to not only manage a great team but also sniff out the ones that are not performing. Above all, we need to trust. Assume that people want to do their best. But there is always one or two people that are not excelling as a virtual person. That is okay, too. As a leader, you can still be supportive and empathetic and help them move on to their next role. Being a leader is great and it is also very hard. Adding on a few more skills will bring out the best in your key players and also bring out the best in you.