There are many ways to be a good leader, and when a manager is in charge of a virtual workforce they may have to adjust their style from what they are used to with traditional employees. Some leadership skills are essential no matter what type of workforce is being managed, but there are three different styles of management these can fall under.
No matter which management style is chosen, there are essential and important elements of that style managers will want to consider. Here are the most valuable things to understand about the skills needed in each management style.
Using the Transactional Approach
The transactional approach to leadership is one that is based on the completion of tasks. In other words, employees have rules to follow, regulations they must meet, and deadlines that are set and not able to be moved. For their participation in all of these things and the proper completion of the project, they will receive compensation that was previously agreed upon between the employees and the company for which they work.
There is little to no interest in building people up, helping them grow, making them feel valued, or asking them what they really need to be happy with the work they are doing. Instead, they are given a task and rewarded for that task. This is the transaction they have agreed to, and many managers have this style. They require something to be done, such as a project, and when it is completed satisfactorily by a set deadline the virtual workforce is compensated for that.
While this may not sound very desirable, many people who are part of the virtual workforce find this option to be an acceptable one. Because they do not work in a traditional team or environment, they may not be looking for validation, motivation, or other things that come with different leadership styles. They want to do their job, do it well, and then be paid for it when it is complete. For them, a transactional approach to leadership works very well.
Choosing a More Transformational Approach
In many companies, managers work off of a more transformational model of leadership. This is based less on a transaction that has to be completed and more on a way of working together as a team. Instead of essentially telling employees what to do and expecting them to do it, a transformational leader asks employees what they need to perform their job effectively and works with them to accomplish a task or a project that is important to the company.
These types of leaders are a part of the team, as opposed to transactional leaders who are the head of the team but not really a team member. For a virtual workforce, transformational leadership can work very well. Many virtual employees feel isolated and uncertain of their place or duties. They may also not feel as though they are being included in decisions, or they may do less and less because no one seems to notice.
With a transformational leader, employees are generally excited about all the things they can do and learn while they work. They want to interact with their virtual team members, and they are encouraged to do so. Additionally, transformational leaders spend more time reaching out to employees, both individually and as a group, in an effort to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the completion of the project.
The Situational Approach Can Also be Effective
Because companies, managers, virtual employees, projects, and just about everything about a situation can be unique, a situational approach to leadership can be the most effective method of all. This is a style where a manager can be either transactional or transformational, depending on the nature of the project and the people who are involved in it. Knowing which style of management to use for each project is an important skill that can take time to acquire.
Some projects are operating on tight deadlines with a lot of serious issues surrounding them. They may really need a transactional leader who will step in and take complete charge, giving orders and moving things along to an appropriate conclusion. Other projects are far different from this, and they may be better served by a transformational leader who will work closely with all of the virtual workforce members and be a big part of the team.
When a manager knows the project and the team well enough to decide which type of leadership style to use, it can make a significant difference in whether the project goes smoothly and the virtual workforce is happy with the way they are treated and the work that they are given to do. There are times and places for both types of leadership styles, and strong leaders realize the value of both options for the virtual workforce.