Every great leader possesses a skill set that motivates and inspires others. From FDR to Michael Jordan, unwavering, stoic personalities have a profound impact on others around them. But not everyone has the innate ability to lead. Sometimes, the development of leadership skills must first be addressed. In the virtual world, this is no different. Whether you’re a manager, a business owner, or a motivated employee, you’ll need several leadership skills as a remote worker to build the best possible team, create cohesiveness, and foster an engaging company culture.
However, remote workers may need additional skills compared to traditional leadership attributes, simply because they aren’t working side-by-side with others. And while communication is paramount, a blend of other unique skills can propel you to the pantheon of great remote leaders. So whether you’re adjusting from onsite work to remote, have never been a leader, or simply aspire to become one, here are the skills you need, how to develop them, and how to implement them.
Leadership Skills You Need as a Remote Worker
Training is vital to the development of leaders in any business. But in the remote work world, it becomes even more integral. If you have the budget and the resources to train leaders, do so. Leaders have a beneficial effect on companies, as well as improving company culture.
Some remote companies may not have the ability to train workers in traditional programs. Therefore, some employers, managers, and owners may have to lead by example. But before this is possible, these individuals should define the distinct qualities and leadership skills of a remote worker that make them a viable candidate.
Here are some of the integral leadership attributes you should understand and possess.
“Know thyself.” – Ancient Greek maxim
Leave it to the Greeks to come up with philosophical statements you can apply to every aspect of your life. In regard to leadership skills as a remote worker, knowing oneself is the first step toward self-leadership—and perhaps the most vital part of the leadership skill set.
Can you really become a successful leader if you don’t have a modicum of leadership in your own life? Probably not. That’s why self-leadership is so important. At its most basic, self-leadership encompasses:
- Ambition and self-improvement: Learning how to make yourself a better leader and person spiritually, mentally, and physically.
- Self-management: Time management and attention to detail.
- Self-reflection: Taking a moment each day to contemplate work, life, and other thoughts in a productive manner.
- Self-knowledge: The awareness of strengths and weaknesses, as well as being cognizant of your abilities.
Because self-leadership is an inward activity, many people may struggle at first. But just thinking about each aspect of self-leadership for five minutes a day can be the start toward successful leadership of others.
Leadership coaching isn’t bringing your inner Bobby Knight to the virtual workplace. It’s much more subtle; a great coach identifies the strengths of their staff and figures out how to stimulate that strength. By doing so, a coach can unleash the best of colleagues and employees while also making them believe in their own abilities.
In the remote world, video chats are perhaps the best way to coach others. Or, leaders can go through collaboration tools, phone calls, or emails to discuss recent work. During such communication, leaders can provide helpful advice to improve while letting the worker know that they’re appreciative.
A successful business is heavily dependent on vision. Vision for the present and vision for the future can help businesses accurately come up with a set of goals and how to achieve them. In short, vision is tantamount to success. Thus, it’s one of the top leadership skills as a remote worker.
Communication is more than just a video chat, an instant message, or an email. It’s a core function that’s essential to managers both onsite and remote. However, many managers and employers don’t delve deep enough to understand everything that communication embodies. Communication is a mix of:
- Listening: This is far more difficult in a remote workplace, but giving some extra thought to questions and concerns is essential.
- Visibility: Letting employees know that your virtual door is always open projects a warm, inviting nature that leaders possess.
- Authenticity: Sincerity and honesty are important. But leaders shouldn’t read from a script or remember lines from management textbooks. Instead, authenticity is about being a real person and one that others can relate to.
Trust and Macromanagement
Trust is important in any relationship—not just the workplace. But without trust as one of the core leadership skills of a remote worker, contempt can manifest. Unsurprisingly, macromanagement (a laid-back approach that believes in the skills of others) goes hand-in-hand with trust. Leaders trust their employees’ abilities. As a result, they don’t have to micromanage, giving way for more autonomy and cohesiveness.
Being overly sensitive is typically not a coveted skill in the business world. But a healthy dose of sensitivity has distinct advantages, especially as it applies to leadership skills as a remote worker. Some of the advantages of sensitivity in the workplace include:
- Generosity and appreciation
- Emotional awareness
Not only does this make you a great leader, but it makes you more real—something that your employees will enjoy and appreciate.
Flexibility and Understanding
In a COVID-19 world and an increasingly digital one, flexibility becomes all the more important. The good news is that flexibility is often accompanied by understanding and vice versa. If you’re flexible to your workers’ home/personal life or other issues, chance are that you understand where they’re coming from.
In the remote world, this is even more important. You typically don’t have the opportunities to communicate like you would in an office setting. So giving the benefit of the doubt and exercising flexibility is crucial.
Patience is one of the greatest virtues. In remote workplaces, this becomes increasingly vital—especially if your company has recently moved to the virtual forum due to COVID-19. Understand that everyone absorbs information differently and that a steep learning curve is undoubtedly going to happen. By practicing patience, leaders can cut the stress levels of their employees and foster a more open work environment.
How to Develop and Implement Leadership Skills as a Remote Worker
No single path exists for developing leadership skills as a remote worker. What works for someone else may not work for you. Moreover, some of your leadership skill set may already be at heightened levels. Reflection about what you need to develop and what you already possess will help you effectively manage your time as you gain experience in the aforementioned leadership skills. In an overall sense, however, these methods will enable you to grow and evolve your leadership qualities.
Volunteer for Projects
Work-life balance and work-life integration are vital to remote workers. But if you’re in a situation where you can volunteer for extra work or projects, do it. In this manner, you learn skills and other aspects of the business that would normally pass you by. Think of it as a learning opportunity—something that tests the limits of your comfort and forces you to build your skill set.
Be a Model of Leadership
Leadership doesn’t always equate to the Machiavellian style; you don’t have to rule with iron fist. Rather, learning when to defer to other people and workers is a true sign of leadership. In the same vein, listening to others when they have differing ideas or methods to get to the end result can provide insight that builds your leadership skills as a remote worker. Don’t act like you know everything. Balance what you know with what others can teach you.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Employers, owners, and managers can put forth great ideas in a textual format. But actions will always endear you into the hearts of employees. Seeing the bright side in employees and making a proactive approach to find the best in the worst is the true mark of a leader. In addition, a superb leader takes an active part in the professional and personal development of others. While giving thanks and praise to employees when they do a stellar job is ideal, take the idea to the next level with actions. The more you have a vested interest in the development with others, the more likely you are to be a great leader.
Move Out of Your Comfort Zone and Encourage Others to Do the Same
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
So maybe the First Lady’s quote is a tad exaggerated. But it has its place in developing leadership skills as a remote worker. Challenging yourself to go outside of your comfort zone will identify which skills you lack, and how you can mature. Once you’ve stepped outside of your own, you gain a broader image that may involve empathy for others and challenges that a business or its employees face.
Furthermore, stepping outside of your comfort zone is another way of leading by example. Showing your employees that you wouldn’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself is the embodiment of leadership. As such, you can persuade them to move outside of their comfort zone to cultivate their skills and potential leadership abilities.
Like many intangible qualities and soft skills, leadership is an ongoing and evolving process. Becoming a leader means that you’re constantly growing and adapting not only to remote work trends but also to the needs of your employees. As the old adage goes, it doesn’t happen overnight. By understanding the facets of great leadership, how to improve your skills, and how to implement them, you can become someone that others depend on to lead.
Do you have any tips on how to show leadership as a remote worker? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
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