30 Mar 2020 | 07.45 am
What Makes A Great Virtual Leader?
Hogan Assessments says ambition and altruism matter
30 Mar 2020 | 07.45 am
A remote workplace requires an effective virtual leader at the helm, says Dr Ryne Sherman of Hogan Assessments.
In response to the current Covid-19 crisis, many companies have adopted remote working policies, transforming into virtual workplaces. While remote working is a crucial asset to companies during adverse times, challenges arise for leaders when communicating with employees, maintaining and monitoring productivity, and supporting new and existing employees.
Decades of research on effective leadership tell us that the best candidates to lead a remote workforce are well-adjusted, ambitious, open to new technology, strong communicators, and deeply compassionate when it comes to supporting vulnerable employees.”
A sudden shift to remote work can leave employees feeling displaced and fearful for their future. An effective leader should be able to face these changes head-on, mitigate this uncertainty and lead their team remotely without compromising on engagement or staff morale.
Leaders scoring highly on adjustment will remain calm and level-headed during stressful periods. These leaders will motivate their team to keep working, reduce panic and adapt to the new changes around them.
Unfortunately, the risk of showing up as an absentee leader increases during remote work, which is why adjustment is important. Leaders should not take remote working as an opportunity to provide less leadership. Rather, a successful virtual leader should be an agile role model for their team, proactive in addressing uncertainty and providing clear direction.
Remote work can be a lonely time, especially for those who rely on support and interaction from their co-workers, such as new hires. These employees may feel isolated and less comfortable seeking out help and guidance from their team members when there is virtual distance in place.
Interpersonal sensitivity measures tact, communication style and relationship-maintenance skill. Leaders scoring highly here are diplomatic, warm and friendly, and tend to avoid conflict with employees.
An effective virtual leader should take time to phone and check in with employees daily, without micromanaging or pressuring them about deadlines. Being approachable and available to listen to employees’ questions and concerns makes remote work feel less ‘lonely’ and overwhelming, especially for new hires who require additional support.
The virtual workplace can be demotivating for employees, with some lacking direction in their day-to-day activities. This can lead to chaos, as workdays become less defined and productivity becomes harder to oversee. For workers lacking agency, leaders will need to allocate time and energy into re-defining activities, goals and deadlines.
Leaders scoring highly on ambition are well-equipped to sustain a productive team during a crisis. Ambition measures an individual’s competitive drive, perceived energy and goal-orientation. These leaders are highly self-confident, exuding high energy and drive to employees.
During remote work, companies will find it challenging to measure productivity using traditional metrics like hours spent in the office and will instead look more closely at results. An ambitious leader’s competitive, goal-oriented nature will suit a more results-driven virtual workplace, and their confident and proactive approach will inspire workers to play their part and remain productive.
With remote work comes a new approach to daily activities and processes. Team meetings become video calls, quick questions become instant messages. The inquisitive scale measures a leader’s idea-orientation and openness to new ideas, including new tools and technology.
Leaders scoring highly on this scale are imaginative, interested in new technology and curious about new and inventive ways to solve problems. An inquisitive leader’s creative thinking, although not without its faults, will be a major asset to a remote team as new methods of communicating and working become necessary, and work migrates online and to the cloud.
It is important that leaders act quickly when transitioning to the remote workplace. An effective virtual leader should be an early adopter, reacting immediately to the switch and welcoming the technologies that make daily life easier for employees.
Business aside, a pandemic is a scary time, and many employees may be feeling uneasy or fearful while working remotely due to the events taking place in the world.
An effective virtual leader should be empathetic, even in lieu of face to face interaction, and mindful of their employees’ well-being and capacity to work remotely.
Altruism measures an individual’s desire to help others and contribute to society. Leaders scoring highly here will make their team’s well-being a priority, supporting those in need and acting as a unifying force for employees during adverse times.
As not every employee is in the same boat, being mindful of each employee’s personality, health and personal circumstances is crucial during remote work, and will guide decisions on how best to manage these workers remotely.
• Dr Ryne Sherman (pictured) is Chief Science Officer at Hogan Assessments, the global leader in providing research-based consulting and assessment solutions.