Virtual team leadership takes a particular skill set. It is far removed from the demonstration of face to face leadership. It must bridge the distance gap and overcome a number of human factors that are lost when people don’t interact in a face to face environment.
The very nature of leadership hinges on the connections that exist between the leader and their team. In virtual team environments that are often multi-cultural, geographically spread across the globe, operating in multiple languages and time zones it is not possible for leaders to monitor and control team activities in the same way.
Virtual Team Leadership requires a leader to achieve high levels of communication. They must utilise a range of technology and media to reduce the factors of distance. Virtual leaders must operate a high level of accessibility and responsiveness. They need to ensure that objectives and accountability levels are agreed and understood. Virtual leaders must operate effective formats for information sharing and to provide regular updates of milestones and progress.
All of those skills are made more complex by the virtual team environment. Information sharing does not occur informally in the same way as face-to-face teamworking and access to information can be more limited. Global time zone differences can make meetings more challenging to schedule. Time delays can be more common if remote teams are reliant on those in different time zones for information, decisions or consensus.
Virtual Team Leaders have to foster a strong team identify and forge relationships in a different way. All virtual teams require the highest level of trust to successfully operate and leaders play a vital role in encourage collaboration, building social ties and enabling cohesion to occur.
The demands on a virtual team leader are very different. Leaders of remote working teams of any size need to demonstrate a blend of leadership styles as this has the greatest impact on overcoming distance and achieving productivity.