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The ABCs of Virtual Leadership

Virtual Leadership is the new norm. What are the skills, attributes, and key considerations for leading in a virtual setting? What do leaders need to do differently in a virtual environment? How does leadership change when team are working remote? 


Accountability – set clear deadlines and expectations around the time to complete tasks. Clear accountability enables people to productively action on what matters now.

Be human – Everyone is getting peeks into coworkers lives like never before. Embrace it and be understanding that life and work are colliding like never before.

Communication – Lead regular updates to your team and hold regular 1v1s with direct reports. Since informal communication is limited, try dedicating some time in meeting to simply catching up.

Development – Look for opportunities to continually develop yourself and the leaders on your team. Learning should not be put on pause because in-person training has been put on pause.

Empathy – Everyone adapts to change differently and is facing different challenges right now, only some of which relate to virtual work. Check in on team members and don’t shy away from their personal situations.

Framing – Framing for possibility is an encouraging approach in these challenging times. Try asking yourself, “What new needs are you observing for your team, for your customers, and for your suppliers?”

GoalsSet fewer, faster goals.  The virtual world shifts constantly and clear focused goals help keep employees on track.

Hire the right people – interview via different mediums to understand how candidates communicate in different channels. Be conscious of a candidate’s virtual presence.

Innovation – Whether it be finding new ways to package and market your product or services, or ways to communicate and engage with your team, the virtual environment requires an innovative approach to keep your organization afloat.

Join – Create and attend new opportunities to connect with your team in a causal way, like a virtual happy hour or virtual team lunch. Interactions create energy for your team and can be fun, and having you as a leader join, will make it much more meaningful!

Kindness – words and tone of voice are more powerful in a virtual setting.

Listening – In a virtual atmosphere, it can be tempting to multitask during meetings. Active listening is even more important in a virtual setting when you can’t come back to someone easily to confirm the details. Work on listening to understand rather than listening to respond.

Mentoring –There are fewer opportunities to learn through observation in a virtual setting. Be cognizant of developing talent in this environment: reinforce strong leadership and ask open-ended questions when things could have been handled differently.

Nimble - Work with employees to understand how and when they are able to be most productive. Some companies ask all employees to be logged in for the same 4 hours a day for meetings etc. and then employees have the rest of the day to finish their work on their terms.

Open-minded – Maximizing efficiency and team effectiveness in a virtual setting is a marathon not a sprint. Ask for feedback from your team and solicit ideas for continual improvement.

Processes – Create and communicate new virtual processes to your team; new forms, new checklists, new communication platforms. Reevaluate these processes often to ensure they are still an enhancement and not a hinderance to your team.

Quality - set clear expectations about the quality of work you expect your team to deliver. As a leader, you set the bar on quality.

Recognition – take time to recognize and celebrate the efforts of employees at the organization. Express gratitude often.

Support – Support comes in many forms: does your team have the right equipment to do their best work remotely? Does your team have enough of your time to get what they need to push their project forward?

Trust – Trust in teammates and superiors allows individuals to be their authentic self at work. Work to set an example of transparency and authenticity for your team.

Unity - Remind your team of the organization’s mission often. Repeat it as often as you can to support alignment and unity around a shared goal.

Values – Communicate your organizations values often. Remind people of the bigger picture and greater priorities, and relay examples of how the organization lives by its values so that it becomes more than just words on a paper.

Welcoming – With less opportunity for informal communication, creating a welcoming and open virtual meeting environment is critical in getting your team to speak up and take risks. Try starting a meeting by having all members share some positive news.

X – Evaluate when to stop resourcing a project and put an X through it. Ask, does this initiative still make sense in the current market? Does this project still help us reach strategic objectives?

Yourself – Be authentic. Be transparent. Communicate with empathy. And Be yourself.

Zoom –Zoom into the details and out to the big picture and don’t get stuck in one perspective or the other.


These actionable ideas can propel yourself and your team into new levels of productivity while working virtually. Looking for a PDF version of the ABCs of Virtual Leadership? Access that here.