Which Organizations Emerge Stronger Than Ever from Crisis?  

Those Led by People Who Can Inspire and Guide Their Teams Under Remote-Work Conditions

As the worst impacts of a crisis begin to ease—including those of COVID-19—leaders start wondering what the new normal might look like. For instance, in the case of the pandemic, they’re asking, “How long will people continue to work at a physical distance from one another? What new challenges—and opportunities—might the new normal present? How can I get the best from my teams in this new world?”

There’s no one right answer to these questions. But if some aspects of physical distancing persist into the future, leading effectively from a distance will be vital. Transformative leaders—those who know how to cause marked change in others—can master distance leadership by heeding lessons we’ve drawn from analyzing organizations’ experiences during the pandemic. As a result, they’ll help their teams—and their entire organization—emerge stronger and more productive, resilient, and innovative in the post pandemic era.

What our analysis suggests: Three lessons provide especially helpful guidelines for leading from a distance:

  • Align everyone behind your longer-term strategy. Clarify your organization’s value-creation opportunities, and identify the actions needed to capture them—including how you’ll shift resources based on new circumstances. Deploy open-source leadership frameworks and tools to better communicate your company’s strategic priorities from the top down to the front line.
  • Take advantage of remote work’s benefits. Understand that many immediate hardships that come with a shift to remote work (cost of new technology, drops in productivity) get amortized as people normalize new ways of working and their productivity resurges. Take advantage of the greater autonomy that remote work encourages among employees operating close to customers and other stakeholders. How? Use your freed-up time to set strategy for your team and to help employees develop their own leadership capabilities.
  • Articulate expectations and decision rights. Make sure that when employees who are working remotely log on each day, they know what they’re expected to accomplish, why, and how to report progress. Use agile project management tools (kanbans, story points, wiki pages) to communicate strategy and employees’ role in implementing it. Clarify who’ll make what types of decisions, too. You’ll help stave off the misunderstandings, confusion, and inefficient use of resources that can arise more easily in a remote-work environment.