Business Leadership Today

The Strongest Leadership Skill in the Era of Remote Work


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

The arrival of remote work has brought forth new challenges and opportunities in the realm of leadership. Amidst these changes, one leadership skill has emerged as paramount.

The strongest leadership skill is the ability to inspire and motivate employees to deliver exceptional work. This skill has become even more vital in the era of remote work and is honed by leaders through clear communication, recognition of achievements, empathy, fostering growth, and leading by example.

Whether you are leading in a remote environment or in an on-site office setting, the ability to inspire and motivate teams is the most important skill for sustainable success. The good news is, this skill can be developed by any leader through practicing a few simple habits.

Navigating Leadership Challenges in the Post-Pandemic Era

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the workplace. In its wake, the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting have highlighted the pivotal role that leadership plays in shaping an employee’s perception of their workplace. The actions and behaviors of leaders can significantly influence employee engagement and retention. 

In a time characterized by high turnover rates and escalating disengagement, it becomes essential for leaders to nurture a work environment that empowers employees to fully engage and deliver their best performance.

However, in the face of constant change and shifting workforce priorities, organizations find themselves wrestling with the task of devising effective engagement and retention strategies that address these dynamic shifts and their impact on employees’ needs.

Employees cannot thrive in a work environment that falls short of providing the necessary conditions for them to fully engage and perform at their peak. It is crucial to have individuals equipped with strong leadership skills in place to ensure these conditions are met in the workplace.

The Rise of Remote Work and Its Impact on Leadership

The advent of digital technology has revolutionized the way we work, leading to a significant increase in remote work. The pandemic further accelerated this trend, making remote work a necessity rather than an option for many organizations.

Remote work offers numerous benefits, including flexibility, reduced commute times, and the ability to hire talent from anywhere in the world. However, it also presents unique challenges for leadership. Traditional leadership methods that rely on physical presence and direct oversight are less effective in a remote work environment. 

Leaders in the era of remote work need to adapt and develop new skills. They need to be able to inspire and motivate their teams without the benefit of face-to-face interaction. 

They need to foster a sense of community and belonging, even when team members are physically apart. They also need to leverage digital tools to communicate effectively and maintain productivity.

In this context, the ability to inspire and motivate stands out as the strongest leadership skill. By cultivating this skill, leaders can effectively guide their teams toward success, irrespective of the physical distance that separates them. 

The Amplified Importance of Inspiration and Motivation in Remote Work Environments

Inspiring and motivating employees is even more important in remote work due to several reasons.

Isolation and Disconnection

Remote work can often lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection among employees. Inspirational leaders can help mitigate these feelings by fostering a sense of belonging and purpose.

Engagement and Productivity

In a remote setting, traditional methods of supervision and motivation may not be as effective. Leaders who can inspire and motivate their teams can enhance engagement and productivity, even when physically apart.

Trust and Autonomy

Remote work requires a high level of trust and autonomy. Leaders who inspire their teams can foster a culture of trust, encouraging employees to take ownership of their work.

Well-Being and Work-Life Balance

Remote work blurs the line between personal and professional life. Leaders who can motivate their teams to maintain a healthy work-life balance can contribute to their overall well-being.

Change Management

The shift to remote work is a significant change for many employees. Inspirational leaders can help their teams navigate this change, turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

The ability to inspire and motivate is not just about improving work outcomes but also about fostering a positive and supportive work environment, wherever team members are. 

A Leader’s Primary Role

Inspiring and motivating employees should be a year-round focus for leaders. Leaders at all levels should regularly remind themselves that their main responsibility is to inspire excellence in their team members. 

This means prioritizing activities that foster engagement and eliminating barriers to it, rather than concentrating solely on tasks and short-term metrics. A straightforward method to achieve this is for all managers to print a document that serves as a reminder of their fundamental role:

My primary job is to inspire greatness in my team by serving as a coach who helps people to be happy, great human beings who do great work.

After printing this reminder, leaders should set up a calendar event that prompts them to read this document multiple times a day for at least 30 days. Each time leaders read this, they are more likely to take action that brings out the best in their team members, making them feel more valued.

Cultivating the Skill

The ability to inspire and motivate others is not an inherent trait but a skill that can be developed. In addition to the regular reminders about their primary role, leaders can cultivate these skills through a few simple habits.

Clear Communication

Leaders should communicate the organization’s goals and vision clearly and regularly. This helps employees understand the bigger picture and their role in it.

Recognition and Appreciation

Recognizing and appreciating employees’ efforts and achievements fosters a positive work environment. It makes employees feel valued and motivates them to perform better.

Empathy and Understanding

Leaders should show empathy and understanding towards their team members. They should be approachable and open to feedback. This builds trust and strengthens the leader-employee relationship.

Encouraging Growth

Leaders should encourage the professional growth of their team members. They can do this by providing learning opportunities and constructive feedback.

Leading by Example

Leaders should lead by example. Their actions and behavior set the tone for the team’s work culture, so they should continually model core values to inspire team members to do the same.

As we navigate the challenges of remote work, let us remember that the power to inspire and motivate is not just a leadership skill but a beacon of hope that can light the way forward. And in the era of remote work, taking care of your team means inspiring and motivating them to be their best selves—wherever they are.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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