Great Leaders Share These Five Traits–Here’s a Peek and Their Secrets to Success
When you lead a team, you set the tone and establish the tenor. Strong leaders know that what they say and do can change the trajectory of a team’s future. As the owner of a small business, you are the leader for that business–and chances are you have a lifetime of leadership experience to call upon and guide your interactions.
But, when you lead a virtual team, the equation changes. Your leadership must be tweaked to ensure your efforts travel over the miles to guide, inspire and lift up your employees.
At HireMyMom, people leading businesses with workers spread far and wide across the country, spanning multiple time zones, inspire us each day.
Sages have shared millions of words about the traits of effective leaders and how those traits translate to leading virtual teams. Along the way, we’ve noticed a handful of consistent traits and habits among those who do it well. Here’s a roundup of our observations.
A Long and Wide View
Vision is an essential trait of a remote leader. An effective leader looks further and broader than her team or business to see the bigger picture. This perch gives her a peek at upcoming trends–and issues–before others see them and provides the advantage of acting sooner rather than later.
In many cases, this translates to being prepared to leverage new business opportunities. Sometimes this comprehensive view helps a leader spy a weak spot on the team and act before an issue develops.
John Maxwell, author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership, says that having the ability to see more than others before others allows great leaders tremendous advantages. One of the benefits of this skill is that great leaders can move into a cycle of test, fail, and improve. This cycle is a crucial component to keep businesses growing and reaching new heights of success.
When you lead a virtual team, acquiring the vision that drives the success cycle takes special care and commitment. In our experience, openness to feedback, industry engagement, and frequent team communication help open this field of vision for business owners. Attend webinars, go to conferences and keep the lines of communication wide open. Overall, aim to be approachable and broadcast that you want to hear from people and welcome all ideas.
Authenticity is one of the characteristics that we often see among highly effective leaders. Those who inspire others embody the qualities and habits they promote. And, more importantly, they model those qualities and practices in public and private ways.
Team members see this match in words and deeds and find inspiration. It’s easier to follow along when team members know their leader really believes in something and isn’t just paying lip service. This creates cohesive teams.
It can be challenging to show team members these qualities when leading a virtual team because of limited in-person interactions. However, in our experience, leader authenticity still shines through the phone, email, and instant messaging- it just shows in subtler ways. For example, meeting with people individually by phone or video chat, sharing your enthusiasm and honest assessment as you discuss projects, providing constructive criticism, and jumping in to help when team members struggle are ways to show authenticity.
Another way you can exhibit authenticity as a remote leader is to share positive stories and anecdotes about company culture when you talk with your team. It can be tempting to gripe, especially with a long-term team member. But, the best leaders of remote teams make a point to share their beliefs and positive messages with gusto.
Building People to Build Business
Maxwell says that great leaders intentionally add value to people through skill development, and that’s been our experience, too. Great leaders see potential in people and invest in them so they grow. At HireMyMom, we see this in action when employers call us to replace a person who has grown into a new role at the business.
Investing in skill development for your team is good for people and business. Employees who know they are valued stick around and tend to be fiercely loyal to the leaders who helped them grow.
Looking at a team member and knowing how and where to invest in development can be trickier when managing a remote team. Mark Murphy, author of “Leadership IQ,” suggests that leaders of remote teams look for ways to extend their energy to be more open to coaching and meeting with employees across time zones. He says that leaders who successfully manage remote teams are “indefatigable” when it comes to coaching team members. If you find your energy waning, he suggests building breaks and flexibility into your day, so you have more time and energy for working with team members.
Also, this is an area where vision matters. Having a wide and long view helps you find the right people and invest in cultivating the right skills.
Great leaders love their people and value them deeply. This doesn’t mean they are never unhappy with their team’s work or never have a challenging employment situation.
Instead, it means that great leaders know their people and share common ground as a way to connect. In some cases, leaders and team members connect over personal matters first, sharing experiences about parenthood, hobbies, or pets. That connection quickly spills over to a shared purpose around the business.
When you lead virtual teams, take the time to connect with your people and show that you care about them and value them as people and team members. Your remote team members need as much–if not more–encouragement than those who you see regularly. There are several ways to do this. For example, discuss big projects as opportunities and help to paint the long-term vision.
Remember that remote workers aren’t surrounded by a team, and it can be difficult for them to put mistakes into perspective without the benefit of seeing in-person reactions. When things don’t go as planned, show support by acknowledging the problem and providing assurance that you have faith in the employee or the team. For example, consider saying something like, “that project did not go as planned” when a mistake happens. Then, you can provide perspective by saying: “while we are all disappointed, I know you gave it your all. I’m certain that we will learn from this and get back on track. We will work together to make it happen.”
These types of reassurances can help team members feel valued and appreciated.
All teams and businesses–no matter how well run–eventually experience challenges. And, when those challenges pop up, whether they are big or small, great leaders exhibit courage.
When thinking of leader courage, we are reminded of the old saying that no one ever drifted to their desired location. Indeed, success is a road–sometimes a long one. Travelers need the grit to traverse the trail, and those travelers need a strong leader to drive and encourage. When leaders exhibit courage in the face of adversity, team members notice.
When leading a remote team, courage comes in a lot of forms. Sometimes, it means sharing constructive feedback that might be sensitive. In other cases, it means changing business directions or revamping teams. But, when leaders display courage, teams can solve problems, come together and thrive in the future.
Challenge yourself to be brave by practicing in everyday situations, like sharing constructive feedback or trying new ideas. This experience can prove valuable when things go sideways, and you need to dig deep to find all the courage.
The small business owners and entrepreneurs we see leading teams each day inspire us. And, we never get tired of hearing your stories. Tell us what leadership qualities make you an effective leader. Your observations and tips for growing leadership skills help us learn more and share what we see with others.