Leadership Styles For Remote Workers in Times of Crisis

Crises force people and organizations to recalibrate their plans, including how they are going to manage their workforce. These times bring them out of their comfort zones and even reveal what kind of leader they are. While it might be difficult to act fast, there are ways to effectively lead by ironing out your crisis preparedness plan in advance. 

There are many forms of leadership that can be classified into styles. Though, before we dive deep into them, assess first what kind of style you’ve been employing all these years. This will help you know where exactly to adjust, choosing the right approach especially when dealing with a team that is working remotely. 

Many businesses shifted to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time of crisis like this, it is crucial for leaders to lead with compassion while staying rational enough to set clear goals. Work-life integration has never been more glaring as people try to adapt. Therefore, leaders must start from a place of trust and encourage flexibility, entrusting employees with new responsibilities. It is high time to connect with them in order to promote a sense of community amidst distance and uncertainties. To help you weigh in on the kind of leadership that will work best for you and your remote team, below are three leadership styles that you can choose from. 

Authoritarian leadership. 

This is probably the most common approach in organizational management despite the fact that it can be the least effective. With this, the decision-making is often top-down, concentrated at the apex of the hierarchy. Leaders who employ this style directly supervise their subordinates and control all the decisions based on their own understanding. While this may sound suffocating, this style can actually work if the leader has a strong grasp of the company and the crisis at hand. They are usually effective when facing a serious problem head on with their clear vision and decisiveness. However, it must be noted that many organizations do away from this leadership style these days since insights from other employees often get disregarded in favor of the authoritarian leader. They might be engaged but not necessarily empowered which is what organizations should aim for, especially at a time where their critical thinking and attitude can be honed. 

Transformational leadership. 

A transformational leader fully understands that the best asset of any organization is its people and thus focuses on their wellbeing more than anything else. They make sure that they remain motivated with SMART goals and effective communication. COVID-19 has separated people from their coworkers, family, and their workplaces which is why they give high importance to creating a shared, aspirational vision as a team. This simply means that they go out of their way to check that no employee feels they are being left behind. Their role, contributions, and even areas to upskill are clearly communicated. It’s not about spending much attention on every person but looking at the bigger picture which involves what could be invested in their best asset to help the organization survive the crisis. 

This kind of leadership works best for people who are risk-takers and visionary, unafraid to challenge all that has not been tried yet. They therefore come out as inspiring leaders who are sustained by purpose. Though, there’s a certain kind of personality needed to be able to pull this off. Their vision, personality, and capability to uplift and seriously hear people out help outline the organizational strategy as well as the improved work streams moving forward. The only downside of this kind of leadership is that they might miss some important details as they focus on the high prize. Nonetheless, this is one of the most critical styles of leadership that retains a genuine connection with the team and keeps the organizational culture strong. 

Transformational leadership has been practiced by the strongest crisis leaders for decades, as evidenced by the story of the “Moose Test”. 

Transactional leadership. 

Contrary to transformational leadership style, transactional leadership depends on self-motivated employees who can work efficiently in a structured and straightforward environment. Transactional leaders do not “sell” proactively like what transformational leaders do but rather, they “tell” reactively and mainly focus on day-to-day progress towards the set KPIs. They are good facilitators who keep an organizational routine and stability. Thus, they are not particularly good to lead in places where a high level of creativity is required since they function in an organized way who would direct people and not inspire them. Moreover, they employ a system of rewards and penalties which could actually work in a time of crisis since people are compelled to do better in order to keep their job.

A transactional leader values good performance and results more than anything which maintains the status quo in an organization. They prioritize the self-interest of the employee who should perform well in a direct environment, driving them to develop solutions that are aligned with the company’s system and goals. 

There are many other leadership styles that can be explored in a time of crisis. Though, what matters more than immediately identifying what style you should use is having a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish. When choosing a leadership style, take into consideration the urgency of your plans, the workability of your vision, and the experience of your team. Allot enough time to assess these in order to be more decisive moving forward. Remember that there is also no shame in not knowing all the answers. After all, you have a team and an organizational foundation you can always count on. 

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