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Virtual Leadership: Definition & Importance

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In the business and academic environment, virtual leadership has been a very important topic. Nowadays, businessmen and academics are looking for good leadership to improve their effectiveness.

Thanks to all the technological advances, now it’s possible to create an effective online leadership, where all the activities and goals to be achieved can be carried out. In this article, we are going to talk about virtual leadership, its importance, and how you can apply it in your organization.

Summary

  • Effective virtual leadership is essential for having order in the goals to be achieved.
  • Virtual leadership and teamwork go hand in hand towards good performance.
  • As well as having multiple benefits, it is also a challenge in many aspects.

What you should know about virtual leadership

Leadership today is a rather complex phenomenon. It involves many aspects such as the individual characteristics and competencies of leaders, characteristics of co-workers, and the background conditions in which leadership takes place (1).

In the following section, you will see all the characteristics and aspects of virtual leadership and its importance.

What is virtual leadership?

Virtual leadership is the ability that an individual has over a group of people online. These skills can be developed in different ways in different media. In addition to this, it carries out actions to achieve established objectives, influencing, motivating and transforming a group of people.

Virtual leadership must create a change in the company or institution. Both attitudes, feelings, and the way of thinking among people, to achieve the established goals.

The leader is responsible for the improvement and evolution of educational institutions and companies. However, this is done together with other leaders, thus being a community leader. This is also called system leadership (2).

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Characteristics of a good virtual leadership

As a result of the pandemic, many companies, and institutions have asked themselves this question: how can I create effective virtual leadership to improve productivity? For this very reason, we will show you its characteristics below.

How to be a good virtual leader? Here are the characteristics that you need to develop. (Source: Fabiola Peñalver/ Gitnux)

Group-related competencies

A leader must have certain characteristics to be able to manage and organize a workgroup. There is a broad category that applies to expressions encouraging group activity, and is specifically related to the order of work, placement of shared tasks and the time to perform them. There is also planning as a function of direction, organization, and control (3).

Adaptation

The second characteristic we have is adaptation. Every leader everywhere must adapt his style to each person, his degree of maturity, and personality, among others. In addition, he must give them the motivation that affects their most important primary goals. Work on the team environment and create synergies to foster a sense of belonging (4).

Teamwork

Teamwork and virtual leadership go hand in hand. By working together, consequently, each person plays a role in the project.

By working together, therefore, each person plays a role in the project to be realised. By understanding each task that each person has to perform, they can benefit from their different skills and independence. They also see diversity as something rewarding, as they see the possibility of better results (5).

On the other hand, individual self-evaluation allows students to become aware of the process followed for improving or reinforcing the points that they have detected as weak in the following experiences (5).

Motivation and discipline

It is essential that the virtual leader is in a constant state of motivation. However, we know that there will always be days that are more difficult than others, and that sometimes there is simply no energy left to stay motivated. This is where discipline comes in. It is important to create discipline so that you can somehow stay motivated every day, as it is a stimulus for the followers.

When the leader is motivated, the positive energy is transferred to the colleagues and a greater commitment is created towards the established goals.

Likewise, when the leader is motivated, you can notice improvements in other important characteristics of the work team. Among these characteristics are communication, initiative, and responsibility.

Communication

When working with a team remotely, many parts of communication are lost. The leader must create strategies to have fluid and effective communication in the team. This way, you feel less lonely when working remotely.

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This can be achieved by using instant messaging applications, so that communication is much faster and closer. Additionally, virtual meetings can be created, meetings to solve problems, among others.

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Trust

Trust is demonstrated in the results or the method used to perform the tasks, not in the hours invested. This is why a virtual leader must have confidence in his work team and in turn inspire confidence in them.

The leader must keep a daily record of hours, absences, and so on. Due to so much progress in technology and the new models of remote work, there are a lot of applications that help to perform this type of task. One of the great benefits of these tools is that supervisors can see the overall situation of their team.

Flexibility

Finally, there is flexibility. This quality is important in virtual leaders, because it makes it easier to perform tasks and at the same time to think about different tasks. It is about knowing how to adapt to change. Being able to modify tasks, not letting people lose focus, and at the same time feeling valued and listened to.

Advantages and disadvantages of virtual leadership

Traditionally, the relationship between leaders and collaborators has been face-to-face. However, we have entered a technological world in which all these leadership activities can be carried out virtually.

However, now in the technological world, all these leadership activities can be carried out virtually.

Advantages

  • Increased availability
  • Increased productivity levels
  • Increased time flexibility
  • Better communication and transparency
  • Better process traceability

Disadvantages

  • New skills and behaviors are required
  • Decreases close working relationship
  • Ineffective team members

Importance of virtual leadership

The importance of virtual leadership in work teams is mainly focused on creating groups of people who work together towards a common goal that benefits the organization.

Leadership plays an integral role in the whole process of effectively achieving organizational goals, objectives, and tasks. The integration of vision, knowledge, design, leadership, and management is essential to this approach to development. Adequate planning is necessary to ensure good quality in distance working groups (6).

Keys to leading virtual work teams

The task of leading remote work teams is a challenge for many organizations. Therefore, virtual leadership must be guided by a mentor with certain keys to guide a work team. Here we show you what they are:

  • Trust above all.
  • Know how to communicate.
  • To lead calmly.
  • Be transparent in all aspects.
  • Create successful virtual meetings.
  • Provide a safe environment.
  • Use technology to your advantage.
  • Set clear plans and goals.

What challenges does a virtual leader face?

We know that the task of leadership involves many skills to develop and a lot of work. That is why we will show you some of the challenges that a leader may face. That way, they can be avoided in order to achieve effective virtual leadership.

Virtual leadership, as well as having multiple benefits, is also a challenge in many aspects. (Source: Fabiola Peñalver/ Gitnux)

Why can a virtual leader fail?

Leading is not a simple task, and even less so in virtual mode. The pressure to perform tasks and organize plans is much greater. The list of characteristics that a virtual leader must have is long. Still, there are certain attributes that cause them to fail. Here are some of them:

  • They do not possess leadership qualities of their own
  • Confidence turns into arrogance
  • They are incapable of creating or working in a team
  • They are absent to details
  • Poor communication skills
  • Impertinence and victimization
  • Selfishness
  • Lack of trust
  • Possess little humility

Conclusion

In conclusion, virtual leadership is the ability of a person to delegate, motivate and lead a team virtually. This can be created in many ways in an organization, in order to build a better environment and a better development of employees to achieve established goals.

We have highlighted keys to improve it, challenges, and characteristics, that will help you to create the best virtual leadership in an organization. It must be taken into account that virtual leadership is challenging. The leader in charge influences the organizational culture. For this reason, it is important to understand the terms and the correct ways to apply it.

References

1. Esguerra GA, Contreras F. E-leadership, an unavoidable challenge for today’s organizations. Estudios Gerenciales. 2016 [Internet] [2022]
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2. Torres Martín C. Virtual leadership in educational ecosystems. EDMETIC. 2019 [Internet] [2022]
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3. Gutiérrez-Santiuste E, Gallego-Arrufat MJ. Analyzing distributed leadership in virtual training environments. Educational Perspective.2014 [Internet] [2022]
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4. Summa R. Leadership: Characteristics of a Leader. International virtual university network.[Internet] [Internet] [2022]
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5. Lozano ARP, Fuente GB de la. Teamwork and leadership in a virtual learning environment. RUSC Universities and Knowledge Society Journal [Internet]. 2013;2022
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6. Del Valle Garcia Carreño I. Distributive leadership versus virtual leadership [Internet]. [2022].
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