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Can I be a virtual leader? I don’t lead a virtual team…

16th August 2016 | Penny Pullan

Can I be a virtual leader? I don’t lead a virtual team…

Who do you think of when you hear the words ‘virtual leader’? Perhaps the role that springs to mind is a senior executive in a multinational company who manages large teams of people spread all over the world? Of course that role needs virtual leadership, but so do many others. The truth is that anyone who works with people who are geographically distributed will find virtual leadership makes an enormous difference to their results. This applies to many people who would never have considered themselves as virtual leaders. It even applies to those who don’t formally manage anyone else directly yet. Whatever your role, if you engage people from afar to produce results together, you are a virtual leader!

Let’s explore this a little more and see how this applies to very diverse roles. Consider your family doctor. A virtual leader? Surely not! That was my reaction a few weeks ago when Susan asked me for a copy of my book Virtual Leadership for her birthday. She’s a family doctor and so this was a surprise to me. But let’s take a step back, as I did, and listen to why she’s so interested. General practitioners in the UK routinely offer telephone appointments and some offer video appointments, using software such as Skype. These family doctors don’t spend much time face-to-face with their colleagues, who are busy seeing their own patients, so they are beginning to use collaboration tools to share ideas, discuss options and make decisions without meeting up face-to-face. Listening to my friend, I could see how important virtual leadership skills could be to her and I’m glad to say that she now has a copy.

Alison is a publisher and entrepreneur who runs online groups to support and encourage authors and potential authors as they create their next book. I took part in one of her ten day challenges, with the aim of writing a polished proposal for my next book. (I must be crazy to be thinking of this so soon!) Over the ten days, Alison facilitated a really strong community as each individual shared their own perspectives, ups and downs. I don’t suppose that Alison had any idea that she was showing virtual leadership until I pointed out that she had created a very supportive community of people who were interested in each others’ success.

Perhaps you are not not the leader but are involved with a number of project teams, located in different places all over the world. You probably don’t consider yourself a leader. On the other hand, your character and behaviour as you engage others in those teams to deliver results together will make a big difference, or not. By developing your own virtual leadership, you can make a significant difference to a number of teams. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely!

If you work in an office with others based in the same building, surely this doesn’t need virtual leadership? Well, if people work from home often and are not always available face-to-face for meetings and discussions, then it sounds as if you are part of a virtual team after all, at least some of the time!

If your role means that you need to engage people from afar to create results together, then you would benefit from developing your virtual leadership. Gain 20% off the cost of my book: Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best Out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams at https://www.koganpage.com/product/virtual-leadership-9780749475963 with the code VLB20.

Business, Finance, Risk, Information Management

The Kogan Page range of management and leadership books combines leading authors, practicality, detailed case studies and best-practice methodology. Our books are used by managers and leaders worldwide to make informed decisions based on the latest business thinking. Follow us on Twitter @KPMgmtLeaders.

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Virtual Leadership