The current novel coronavirus pandemic has locked office doors everywhere and scattered teams to their respective homes, forcing more leaders to take a different approach of steering their organizations. But at least in sectors such as software development and IT, leadership from afar is not uncharted territory, according to Dr. Vince Molinaro, a strategic leadership expert author of “Accountable Leaders: Inspire a Culture Where Everyone Steps Up, Takes Ownership, and Delivers Results.”

“The first thing that leaders need to do is to bring clarity to those that you lead about the context, and what’s important to serving customers, whether that’s in delivering on projects or helping people cut through a lot of that rumor mill in times of anxiety by explaining what the company is doing,” Molinaro said. He added that this can be achieved by maintaining communication with teams on a regular basis through conference calls. 

RELATED CONTENT: 5 tips for effective remote work

Next, leaders should continue to hold the bar high around performance to keep workers accountable. With the rapid shift, some people will be able to rapidly adjust and hold themselves accountable for their productivity, while others are going to struggle. To accommodate this, leaders can show some flexibility in that regard, yet still emphasize what is really important for the company to move forward. 

Molinaro also found that once workers find their groove, they actually turn out to be more productive and focused, because they are free from the distractions that can occur in an office environment. Also, as the office and home environments start to meld, people are starting to open up more about their home situations, bringing the teams together by allowing them to get to know each other better. 

“What’s happening now is just accelerating what’s already been happening throughout many workplaces,” Molinaro said. “As the current situation is forcing people to rethink how they may have done some things in the past, and I think there will be some sort of benefits that come out of this that will help organizations be more effective and leverage leading from afar and remote work where that makes sense.”

The five tips for strong leadership from afar are: 

  • Holding others accountable for high standards of performance
  • Tackling tough issues and making difficult decisions
  • Effectively communicating strategy throughout the organization
  • Expressing optimism about the company and its future
  • Displaying clarity about external trends in the business environment