In this time of COVED-19 induced locked downs and shut-ins, working remotely has become a new normal. With remote workers comes the need for virtual leadership. The majority of research on remote leadership effectiveness is not encouraging. But one study provides some interesting insight into the communication effectiveness of virtual leaders (Neufeld, et al., 2010). Surprisingly, the study found physical distance had no influence on either leader performance or communication effectiveness. Taking a deeper dive into their data, the researchers found that it was the deep relational familiarity shared between team members and their leaders that accounted for minimal loss of effectiveness upon moving virtually. Specifically, they found a) time in the organization; b) extensive experience with the leader (2 or more years); and c) interaction frequency (over seven times per week virtually or in-person) as the key reasons leaders were able to maintain communication and performance effectiveness. Being richly familiar the details and nuances of their organization’s culture and managerial norms over time, both leaders and employees had learned how to adjust their behaviors and expectations to achieve desired performance levels. Encouragingly, the researchers concluded that distance does not have to be a barrier to effective communication, or effective leadership.
Neufeld, D. J., Zeying Wan, & Yulin Fang. (2010). Remote Leadership, Communication Effectiveness and Leader Performance. Group Decision & Negotiation, 19(3), 227–246.