With “Leading a virtual team” as our current theme of the month, this article will be primarily focused on leadership styles. In our previous article, we briefly discussed the importance of leadership in the virtual workplace. We spoke about effective leadership and how creating a work culture ignites engagement amongst your team. However, this is only the tip of the leadership iceberg. In fact, an array of leadership styles lay submerged beneath the water.
A leadership style is essentially the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. Different styles are meant to achieve and develop different aspects of the team, such as creating a unified team, having a clear vision, or achieving pre-determined objectives.
In the virtual setting, the impact of the type of leadership style that is used is tremendously magnified. In the virtual workplace, the role of a team leader is crucial because the team members are dispersed and have a tendency to feel disconnected. Thus, deciding which leadership style best suits you and your team is an important decision.
There are three main types of leadership styles that are generally used in the workplace, however, the style used can still depend on the timeline of the task, the leadership preference of the leader, and the person that they are delegating the task to. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when deciding which style to use. The following are the advantages and risks of using each style within the virtual workplace:
1) Authoritarian – This style is used when leaders tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished. This style allows for tasks to be completed on time and it sets clear objectives for the team. However, the risk is that it may cause a decrease in the level of engagement from the team members. This effect is amplified in the virtual workplace due to the fact that dispersed team members have a tendency to feel disconnected.
2) Participative – This style involves the leader including other team members in the decision making process of what to do and how to do it. The advantage of this style is that it allows all of your team members to share their input which in turn, engages each team member. They will feel that they are part of the team and it improves the work relationships between the team members and the leader. It bridges that gap between virtual co-workers where they are no longer just a voice, but a colleague. The risk is that this style may slow down the progress of your team due to the very nature of the style itself.
3) Delegation Style – In this style, the leader allows the team members to make decision about the tasks delegated to them. However, the leader is ultimately accountable for the decisions that are made. The advantage of this style is that it nurtures the growth of the team by increasing the responsibility of each individual. This allows the virtual team members to collaborate and work as a team. However the risk of this method is that the workload delegated to some individuals may become overwhelming.
None of these styles are better than the others. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses. It is the leader’s responsibility to choose the appropriate style in order to capitalize on the style of your team members, and the needs of the team. Good leaders should continually adapt and try to improve their styles to best suit their team, which is crucial in leading a virtual team.
Despite the leadership style you wish to use, you still need to make tough and difficult decisions in order to successfully lead a virtual team. In order to do this, you will need an effective decision making process, which will be featured on our next article.