The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 05, 2021 1:00 am

Remote work changes way leaders lead

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

When working from home increased with the onslaught of COVID-19, many employees proved they could get the job done.

Many. Not all.

But the work-from-home experiment meant less hovering and often less oversight from bosses, whether they were micromanagers or not.

“Self accountability was the name of the game,” a report from GP Strategies said.

We're now more than 20 months into the global coronavirus pandemic, and with varied reports that remote work generally didn't affect productivity, it raises questions about leadership. First and foremost: Just how much do we need?

Leah Clark suggests it's simply time for tweaking.

“What I do think is this is an amazing opportunity for leaders to reinvent themselves; to really think about how it is they now might show up for their people in more meaningful and elevated ways,” Clark, a senior director with GP Strategies, said during an Oct. 26 webinar.

The online event, titled “Reinventing Leadership,” focused on a GP Strategies research report. It stemmed from asking 1,000 people about what they want from the work they do, their expectations for moving into a leadership role and whether their current managers have the ability to develop them as leaders.

It boils down to moving from ego to emotional intelligence, from tell to talk and from a focus on corporate values alone to a viewpoint that includes personal values, the company said.

It's time for leaders to “up their game” and evolve from using basic skills to more “advanced maneuvers,” the research report said. “It's time to ask ourselves if we've been operating from an expired playbook with respect to what employees and future leaders value. Are we using a spiral-bound notebook to lead a podcast generation?”

Leaders enjoy the most success with attributes including good communication, trust – demonstrating reliability and that you care about people, and competence, Clark said during the webinar.

The stumbles come from poor communication skills – 52% cited this as an issue. Other pitfalls include arrogance, which can include making all the decisions, inability to handle conflict, not being trustworthy and not embracing diversity and inclusion.

Moving from ego to emotional intelligence will require exhibiting a willingness to express vulnerability and to ask for help, being inclusive in decision making, transparent in communication, Clark said.

Moving from “tell to talk” includes more delegating and increased team collaboration while shifting the value focus from just corporate to personal levels requires more conversations about career development and coaching. Some leaders, Clark said, shy away from coaching because they may lack confidence, skills or feel they lack time. And in a hybrid world that includes more remote work, some leaders may be uncertain how to best achieve more personalized approaches.

But challenges don't lessen the importance of reinvention.

In a time plagued by “The Great Resignation,” it is troubling that 35% of employees say their leaders seldom or never spend time in career conversations, GP Strategies' report said.

“The skills haven't changed for what you need as a leader,” Clark said, “the context has changed. If you know how to coach in an in-person world, you know how to do it in a hybrid world. You just need to apply the skills with greater intentionality.”

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at

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