How to Successfully Lead from Distance

Do you lead a team that is mostly scattered to the winds? Then you need to organize yourself particularly well and pay attention to a few additional things.

As the leader of a virtual team, the demands on you are particularly high. If you observe the following points, you will be able to lead successfully even at a distance.

Make Sure to Have the Technology at Hand

Think about what your team's needs are and what tools will best meet them: Messenger, collaboration tools, video conferencing programs, mail, phone, planning tools, etc.

Adjust Mentally to Virtual Leadership

Be aware that you need specific skills to lead in the virtual space. You will not be able to control everything. You will have to delegate tasks. You will even have to delegate certain leadership tasks to the team. You will need to be critical, open and tolerant.

Create Trust

Trust is the most important currency in leadership at a distance. Trust your employees and make sure they trust you. You build trust by being open, honest, authentic and tolerant about mistakes.

Set Clear Rules

Clear, comprehensible and unambiguous rules ensure smooth and efficient operations. This is especially true for communication via digital channels. Determine how to plan and cooperate and what is communicated via which channels.

Encourage Exchange within the Team

If the team rarely sees each other person-to-person, it is even more important that they meet regularly in the virtual space. Create spaces for such meetings. These can be work meetings, but they can also be informal. You promote team spirit if you also create spaces for coffee chats or a virtual after-work beer.

Exchange Ideas

Especially if you are a virtual leader, it is important to regularly exchange ideas with each employee on a 1:1 basis. You can do this, for example, via telephone or, even better, a video call.

Be Available

Set times when you will be available to your employees for questions and support. The best way to do this is to write them down in your diary.

Ask for Feedback

"No news" is not always "good news." If you really want to know what your employees think about you and your leadership, ask them for feedback.

Give Team Members Responsibility

You can't possibly lead a team closely at a distance. Delegate responsibility to the team where it makes sense.

Motivate Your Employees

Appreciation can easily be expressed through virtual channels! Don't spare praise just because you communicate with someone only virtually.

Be Empathic

You can and should express empathy even from a distance. Put it into words and use emojis sometimes.

Tolerate Mistakes

Especially when working virtually, mistakes can happen. Don't make a drama out of it, but make sure that the mistake doesn't happen a second time.

Resolve Conflicts

Conflicts are one of the most sensitive issues in virtual teams. It is very difficult to even notice a conflict. Make sure that you are informed about conflicts and create the necessary trust.

Resolve conflicts exclusively with the people involved. If possible, do this in relation to the task that caused the conflict.


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid