Leading from miles away

Katharina Stickling (MSc), Ruth Harrowfield (MSc Hons)

Leadership is changing. While this statement has been true for most of time, it rings especially true in these years following the pandemic when many people were required to work and be led from home. With the restrictions of the pandemic well behind us, many businesses have continued to try and interpret the still weak/minimal data on the benefits and downsides of remote work. For leaders still partly leading from afar the key question that remains is, “What am I supposed to do differently to lead well remotely?”

Modern technology is allowing for all sorts of hybrid or remote working arrangements which in turn require remote leaders to understand and work with a whole new range of complexities, dynamics and practicalities. These include both technical and human elements. Imagine a team of ten people in ten different locations all working toward a project together. How do they share information? When do they ask questions and when can they expect answers? How do they track each other’s progress? These are just a few of the most obvious questions remote teams face on the daily. 

Deeper questions might include, Who do I turn to for what information? And despite all written information exchanged, how do we get to know each other better? How do we learn to fully trust others seeing that we are miles apart? 

Remote leadership entails similar skills to in-person leadership, yet there are some differences, especially in application. Remote leaders are learning to shift their focus from overseeing processes to driving outcomes. They use awareness, effective communication and emotional intelligence to guide and support staff, all while giving more ownership and decision-making power to each individual team member. 

Generally speaking, successful remote leaders tend to demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Providing trust. Gaining the trust of their virtual teams by giving trust first. 
  • Keeping in touch with all employees and being aware of their needs. Being proactive and keeping informed about the performance and wellbeing of team members. 
  • Demonstrating confidence and effectiveness in virtual communication (e.g. learning to read facial cues through a screen or mastering the practical elements of the communication platform).
  • Developing  an open mindset toward different ways of working.
  • Using a collaborative and coaching leadership style. 
  • Paying more attention to results, performance and production and avoiding micromanaging staff. Understanding the responsibilities of employees and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Ensuring that employees are using their skills efficiently.
  • Promoting the intrapersonal (mindset) as well as interpersonal (skill set) development of employees. Providing coaching and mentorship to all staff members equally.
  • Creating spirit, purposefulness, and a sense of belonging among the team members. Providing psychologically safe virtual environments that allow team members to think optimistically and share their new ideas. 

While there are many challenges to remote leadership like the lack of informal and spontaneous social interactions or the absence of in-person involvement and supervision, there are also benefits. The mindset and approach of the remote leaders who interact with individuals and teams is the key to making it successful and worthwhile for both the organisation and the individual contributor.



We help business leaders who are unsure how to grow the people they want to hold on to, for the purposes of engagement, productivity and organisational growth.

Harrowfield is a strategic learning agency. Working to a specific client brief, we draw on the disciplines of organisational and behavioural psychology to determine and execute strategic and tactical programmes for personal development and team development. 

Have you spotted a growth opportunity or a behavioural frustration? We help business leaders to bring out the potential that they see in their people by shaping habits of thinking, communication and action in the workplace. Talk to us today.


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