Virtual Leadership: What Leaders of Virtual Teams Should Focus On

The Coronavirus has been a crisis of unparalleled negative impact. It’s destroyed communities, tanked economies and put a lot of businesses and organisations within peril’s way. But in the tragedy that is COVID-19, there have been some good things that have come out of this. One of the silver linings has been the introduction of work-from-home setups in many teams.

News came out that in lieu of the “new normal,” 40 per cent of workers of Ayala Corporation– one of the nation’s largest companies- would still continue work from home setups. Many businesses are realising that they can still actually operate even if their staff remains remote. Facebook and Google both announced, for instance, that they would allow work-from-home setups for their staff for the rest of 2020.

One can say that work-from-anywhere setups have been accelerated. But one challenge that stands out is one that leaders face- how can one lead a team remotely?

I’ve been working online and leading virtual teams for quite a while now holding positions in Operations Management, Project Management and Human Resources for teams as small as two and as large as forty. And in those several years, I have noticed that one of the crucial pieces to successful virtual leadership is focusing on the right things.

What do leaders who lead virtually focus on? I’d like to share four focuses that a virtual leader must-have.

1. Results

The craze nowadays for virtual managers has been time-tracking apps. There is a place for apps like this, but sometimes the trap can be a hyper-focus on effort instead of results.

We would rather want to know how much hours our virtual staff put in rather than what results their efforts brought. Effective virtual leaders are those that focus first on getting results and build systems that support that priority.

2. Clarity

In any team, whether virtual or physical, we need to chase after clarity. Sometimes we can have online meetings for the sake of having meetings. 

The golden standard for healthy team communication is clarity. When goals, processes and culture are clear, we can get the most out of our virtual teams.

3. Culture

Speaking about culture, yes, virtual teams can have cultures too. Culture has more to do with behaviour than proximity. When we think that there’s no need to manage culture just because we don’t meet face to face we miss the point. Virtual teams need to manage hard culture in an organisation to get the results they want.

4. Innovation

In this ever-evolving world, change will happen whether we like it or not. The question is whether we will hold it to our favour. As things change, will we ride the waves of change or fight it?

Take social media, for example. That is a fast-changing sphere. Platforms, experiences, algorithms and features change all the time. We need to be at the forefront of that change by choosing to be leaders that focus on innovating at all times.

Virtual Teams and The Future

It might be too early to say that virtual offices will be the norm. There is still a place for brick and mortar avenues. But there’s no denying that virtual work is possible. Thirty years ago, we could never imagine that we could work with a team that was miles away from each other. Today, it’s not just possible. It’s actually trending. Who knows, then, where we will be in the next thirty years? Who knows?

Patrick Mabilog,