Remote Working, Team Management

Managing People on Remote Teams

Effective leadership is a key contributor to an organization's success, regardless of the working model they implement. Effective leadership on remote teams can be seen to be even more important when contributing to a team’s success. When organisations look at leadership on remote teams, it’s clear that there isn’t a definitive agreement on what skills remote managers require, how they can be developed, and how to measure and monitor remote leaders performance. It’s important to consider the differences between remote leadership as opposed to leadership within physical office environments, such as different nationalities, various time zones and diverse cultures.

Characteristics of leadership on a remote team

Unsurprisingly as remote culture and working models is a new concept there has been little research conducted on the specific characteristics required for leaders of remote teams.

The Distance Manager, by Kim Fisher, proposes the seven clusters of competencies that are common for a successful remote team leader. These competencies include:

  • Leader

  • Results Catalyst

  • Facilitator

  • Barrier Buster

  • Business Analyzer

  • Coach

  • Living Example

Fisher proposes that if the leadership of remote teams possess the majority of competencies outlined, the fluctuate between various leadership styles, it leads to overall successful leadership. ‘The “Leader” role is there to inspire, create visions, foster enthusiasm and take care of team energy levels. The job of the “Results catalyst” is to manage by principle instead of policy, helping team members focus on important issues and deliver expected results. “Facilitators” controls the use of technology, takes care of necessary tools and infrastructure needed to perform daily operations and focus on sharing data and enabling fluent communication.’ (Fisher & Fisher, 2001).

Remote working brings its own unique challenges and ‘office politics’ for remote employees. It can be said to be even more important to have a leader that can help to eliminate these challenges, specific to remote teams to enable employees to be as successful and productive in their role. The research goes on to conclude that this is the role for ‘barrier busters’ which also includes the task of defending the team’s work, and ensuring team members are heard, which can be difficult in a remote environment.


Now it is important to reduce the challenges associated with remote leadership and virtual collaboration, of which there are many. Virtual collaboration needs clear structures, depending on the individual situation. There are three main success factors that every manager needs to take into account - people, virtual management, and technologies and methodological skills. It is up to the virtual manager to work with his employees on ways to define and implement these structures.

For organisations, they need to deeply consider the leadership that they hire for remote teams and take into consideration the characteristics individuals possess, to be applicable to what is needed for remote performance. Managing remote teams vary from organisations, but ensuring leadership have the fundamental characteristics immediately sets a remote team up for high success.