Feb 13, 2008

Virtual Leadership

Erik from i4cp.com forwarded me this article on how organizations must make a deliberate attempt at building leaders with skills to manage in a virtual environment:

"Virtual distance" in this study was defined as both perceived and physical distance, highlighting the point that leading virtually is often a blend of virtual and face-to-face interactions. What seems to matter here is the perception of distance between leaders and those who are supposed to be following them.

Perceived distance can lead to a higher level of distrust, and trust is among the core building blocks for high-performance leadership (Reina & Reina, 2006). In the absence of familiar visual cues, conversations become harder to decode and trust-building becomes a tougher challenge. A lack of trust can also result in communication problems, which are often compounded by differences in language backgrounds among global teams (Manning, 2003).

Avoiding these problems often requires special skills and tactics. For one thing, virtual leaders need to be able to use available technologies well. Technologies are, after all, a double-edged sword. Video conferences, online chats, instant messages, polling, e-mail, the use of avatars and other forms of communication can be powerful tools. However, integrating these forms of communication to enhance effectiveness isn't easy, especially if you consider differences in communication styles among the virtual team members.

Organizations with virtual teams and a large number of distributed workforce must think and plan for this before it becomes a crisis. It can be the next competitive difference for organizational success by building high employee engagement.