Posted on 27th October 2021 at 20:36
With the widespread implementation of hybrid working, leaders are being challenged to implement a range of leadership styles in this new context. Hooijberg and Watkins (2021) argue that leaders need to adopt the four multimodal leadership styles to successfully operate across two distinct work modes: in person and virtual.
Many work tasks which can be done remotely including information gathering and processing, communicating with others, teaching, software development, coding and analysing data and many more. However team collaboration is more effective when done in person.
Leaders will need different skills to lead in this hybrid working model and four leadership styles can be used in the virtual and in person working contexts.
Leader as Conductor: This leadership role/style is used primarily with the virtual team. The Conductor is similar to an orchestral director who ensures that the musicians play well individually but also in harmony. In the work context the conductor ensures that all plans, decisions, and information is shared across the team members setting goals and tracking progress thereby keeping the team included and fostering motivation and engagement. To be successful in this role the leaders must find the right balance between positive engagement and micromanaging the team members.
Leader as Catalyst: When the opportunity arises and meetings can occur in person the leader as catalyst fosters collaboration, creativity and innovation. S/he must aim to create a shared culture extoling the organisations values making the most of the time the team is together. To be successful in the catalyst role the leader must enable and facilitate the collaboration process, building trust and creating a psychologically safe environment. This will facilitate in-depth dialogue and encourage creativity and the sharing of ideas and opinions.
Leader as Coach: Leaders will work one-to-one with their team members in both virtual and in person settings. In both modes the leader needs to operate as a coach. This means focusing on helping each individual achieve their optimum performance while focusing on their wellbeing and professional development. To be effective as a coach, the leader needs to engage their emotional intelligence and the ability to establish a balance between demonstrating empathy and encouraging the individual to push beyond their boundaries. Effective coaching by the leader can enhance employee/leader connections and foster engagement and greater productivity.
Leader as Champion: The previous leader roles focus on the leader leading their team. The leaders as champion requires the leader to promote their team to external stakeholders. To successfully operate as a champion the leader needs to secure the resources the team needs, communicate achievements, promote the team members and ensure they are considered for opportunities that arise and build trust with external stakeholders. This role requires the leader to demonstrate strong negotiation and influencing skills to build strong working alliances.
The world of work is changing and while virtual working is not new it is becoming more of a norm and leaders will need to be comfortable with these four leadership styles to be successful. As catalyst, champion, coach and conductor the focus for the leader is on building and sustaining connections and trust with each individual and the team as a whole.
Hooijberg, R., & Watkins, M. (2021). The Future of Team Leadership Is Multimodal. MIT Sloan Management Review, 62(3), 1-4.
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