New research shows that traits like confidence and extroversion, long associated with management, are insufficient when it comes to remote leadership. Why?

When asked what their biggest challenge is, remote leaders answer without hesitation: communication. But what else do you need to lead a remote team effectively? Some conclusions are surprising. 

Decisions in remote leadership

When you put everyone together in a room to solve a problem, you’re using a different set of skills than you’d use in virtual meetings. In a physical space, the tone of voice, nonverbal communication, and interpersonal connections matter. In a remote environment, the most successful leaders are those who are well-organized and competent – they know how to get the job done.

Another thing leaders need to learn is how to delegate and decentralize decision-making. If you have a well-thought-out succession plan in your organization, you probably have created such decision-making hubs. Now it’s time to give distributed teams more autonomy and provide them with tools, resources, and context when needed. 

Remote leadership challenges

New workflow strategies

During the pandemic, Culture Amp, an employee experience platform, created a process where 20 managers meet daily to discuss the current situation. Later, they post the conclusions and recommendations on Slack for all to see. This way, employees have the data they need to back up their decisions. They don’t have to chase their superiors for approvals constantly. 

At Zapier, a remote-first integration and automation company, leaders document important decisions in a separate internal tool that serves as a searchable database for all team members. The decision-making process itself is structured and transparent, with clear roles of driver, approver, consulted, and informed. 

“It may be a great approach if such transparency is part of your corporate culture. But if you still have an old-fashioned mindset and have never had an open panel or town hall discussion, adopting such techniques during the pandemic can be a disaster,” comments Daniel Aduszkiewicz, CEO and Co-Founder of Human Panel. “Having a public record of decisions means there is a social contract between managers and employees. And such contracts are built over many years,” he adds.

People analytics improves your remote leadership

But there is another way that data can help remote leaders. If you have more than a dozen employees reporting to you, consider introducing people analytics into your team. Regularly collected feedback and data can help you make smarter decisions. Especially if you don’t interact with your employees every day. 

“People analytics doesn’t mean AI will make decisions for you. But data can confirm what you’re not sure about. If you know what to do – great; but if you don’t, work with data because those numbers will inspire you and point you in the right direction,” comments Daniel Aduszkiewicz.

The end of charismatic leaders?

Of course, data will not replace real human interactions and workflow. Interpersonal relationships and empathetic behavior matter, though it can be hard to build trust on those traits alone. 

Whatever charisma leaders have is not the key to success. Successful remote leaders will be the ones who focus on planning, support their teams with resources and tools, stay on top of the tasks at hand, and ultimately achieve the goals. And, above all, are data literate. If you want to learn how to achieve it, contact us at Human Panel. Sign up for a free demo and see people analytics in action, including how data can help you as a remote leader.

Reduce guesswork. Prove HR impact on revenue.