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You Should Be Recruiting Different Types of Leaders for Remote Teams

Erica Brescia, the COO of Github, a company in which 70% of the workforce has worked remotely for a decade, wrote in the Economist about how remote working is different and better. There have been many perspectives shared on remote work, but Erica’s adds an intriguing detail.

Managers tasked with creating a culture of collaboration within a distributed team will find the profile of a leader changes. A recent study found that the skills and traits of successful leaders in an in-person, office-based environment differ from those needed to lead distributed, remote teams. Instead of valuing confidence and charisma, remote teams value leaders who are organised, productive and facilitate connections between colleagues.

This perspective raises the question, should leaders recruit managers with different skill sets depending on the team?

I dug up the paper which you can read here and summarized the findings in a bit more detail below.

Emergent leadership, those who rise to lead through influence rather than authority, happens in two ways: achieving goals or building relationships. Task means helping the team to accomplish a mission. Goal-oriented leaders are over-represented in research studies. The technique seems to be more effective.

Ascriptive leadership occurs when team members are classified as leaders or non-leaders by the team. Typically, this happens when others describe someone as intelligent, dynamic, and motivated.

In the real world, a leader has an opportunity to show leadership in many different situations, and team members pick up on these. Ascription matters more than achievement.

In the virtual world, studies have shown leaders distinguish themselves “in logistical coordination rather than through expertise…” Monitoring team progress and coordinating team members also buttressed a leader’s standing. Achievement matters more than ascription.