Leading Distributed Teams: Leadership Styles for a Hybrid Workplace 

Businesswoman chatting remotely with her distributed teams

TL; DR: The article explores the evolving work landscape, emphasizing the need for adapting leadership styles in distributed teams post-pandemic. It discusses four key leadership styles, their relevance in hybrid work settings, and suggests five core competencies for effective team management. It also addresses a successful example of managing distributed teams and concludes by stressing the importance of continually refining leadership approaches in this hybrid era. 

In the ever-evolving work landscape, the rise of distributed teams has become a prominent feature. According to Buffer’s 2023 State of Remote Work report, 71% of companies are permanently allowing some type of remote work, with only 8% not granting any form of it. 

This dramatic shift underscores the need for a reimagining of leadership styles in the context of hybrid work models. Traditional in-person leadership approaches are being challenged, requiring leaders to adapt to the nuances of managing teams spread across various locations and time zones.  

In this article, let’s make sure you know how to enhance your leadership style and achieve success with your distributed teams. 

Leadership Styles: What Type of Leader Are You? 

Beyond simply acting as a leader, understanding your leadership style is essential. To draw a comparison with the sports world, you already know (and have worked towards it) that your position on the team is that of the coach. Now, it’s necessary to clearly understand the strategies you normally use and in which situations, based on the potential and goals of your team. 

For a leader, this understanding involves self-reflection, feedback from team members, and awareness of how you make decisions and communicate with your team and others in the company. 

It’s also important to consider how your leadership style aligns with your organization’s culture and values, especially in a remote or hybrid work environment. 

Related Read: Making Remote and Hybrid Work Sustainable in the Long Run 

In the post-pandemic era, the most common leadership styles in tech are: 

Transformational Leadership  

Transformational leaders in remote and hybrid settings inspire action by leading with purpose and focusing on positive change. They set a visionary tone for the team, encouraging trust and innovation. These leaders work alongside their teams to identify opportunities for improvement, exhibiting traits like courage, empathy, and creativity.  

Servant Leadership 

Servant leadership emphasizes the growth, development, and well-being of team members, promoting respect, honesty, and teamwork. Leaders practicing this style are characterized by traits like collaboration, active listening, and a commitment to employee growth.

Situational Leadership 

This approach is about adapting to the evolving needs of people and processes, which is especially critical in the hybrid work model. Situational leadership involves flexibility and self-awareness, allowing leaders to adjust their style —ranging from directive to collaborative— based on each unique situation.  

Coaching Leadership 

Coaching leadership in hybrid environments focuses on recognizing and cultivating the talents of each team member while directing them towards a common goal. This style builds trust and is most effective in situations where team engagement is low, cultural issues are present, or there’s a disconnect between organizational and personal objectives. It emphasizes helping team members reach their full potential. 

These leadership styles are not mutually exclusive and can be blended to suit the unique needs of a distributed team. Effective leaders in a hybrid work model often adapt aspects of these styles to create a cohesive and productive remote work environment. 

The key is to understand which style or combination of styles best suits you, your team, and your organization’s goals. 

Managing Distributed Teams: Five Core Competencies for IT Decision-Makers 

Distributed teams concept illustration

In the same way that a baseball coach needs specific traits to lead their team to victory, including comprehensive knowledge of the sport and exceptional communication skills, certain core competencies are essential for today’s most effective technology leaders.   

Deloitte has uncovered five key areas in which successful leaders often excel when effectively managing teams, especially in the context of today’s evolving tech and work landscape: 

#1. Engineer 

Leaders with this competency have the expertise to build, operate, and optimize business operations and technology capabilities. To develop this ability, you need to look for deep operational and technical expertise so you can help your team create operational value and maintain efficient, effective, and secure technology applications and infrastructure. 

#2. Architect 

These leaders are skilled in envisioning, designing, and overseeing technology environments that ensure resilience and scalability while maintaining agility. They are forward-looking, continuously exploring and experimenting with new and emerging technologies to keep their teams and companies competitive. 

#3. Data Scientist 

This competency involves the collection, management, and analysis of data, delivering insights, identifying opportunities for monetizing tech assets, and fostering growth. 

#4. Change Agent 

Leaders adept in this area are experts in instigating, managing, and delivering large-scale digital transformations across the organization. They add value by transforming business processes as well as employee and customer experiences. 

#5. Owner 

IT decision-makers with this competency have deep business knowledge and strong stakeholder relationships. They are proactive in identifying business challenges and creating innovative solutions. 

These competencies represent a holistic approach to leadership, and technology leaders who embody these abilities can navigate the complexities of managing distributed teams effectively, ensuring that their organizations remain agile, innovative, and competitive. 

Leading the Charge: A Nearsure Story in Distributed Team Management 

In the realm of managing distributed teams, the challenge of scaling up operations while maintaining efficiency and cohesion is a significant undertaking. For StayWell, a leading provider of health engagement solutions and one of Nearsure’s partners, the need to expand multiple distributed development teams was not just a necessity but a strategic imperative.   

They sought to elevate their distributed development teams, aiming to swiftly integrate highly experienced individuals capable of seamlessly assimilating into their existing teams and embracing the company’s unique culture.   

Nearsure, alongside its dedicated Account Managers, spearheaded this team expansion initiative, leveraging a model with 12 fully dedicated workers spread across various regions of Latin America. The teams were meticulously divided into three core segments: the Lifestyle Risk Management Team, the Clinical Team, and the QA Team. 

The focus wasn’t just on increasing numbers; it was about achieving the perfect synergy between the current and new teams, and leading talent in a cohesive way even though they were miles apart from each other. In this complex scenario, the secret to our success in completing the project lies in applying agile methodologies. This approach enabled us to adapt swiftly to changes, foster effective communication across different time zones, and maintain a dynamic workflow that kept all team members aligned with the project’s evolving needs.  

Charting Your Leadership Journey in the Hybrid Era 

As we navigate the complexities of the hybrid and remote workplace, it’s crucial for leaders to continually assess and refine their leadership styles. The effectiveness of our leadership in the context of distributed teams is about redefining how we connect, collaborate, and drive success across geographical and digital boundaries. 

Reflect on the competencies and leadership styles discussed in this article. Ask yourself: How well do they align with my approach? Am I fostering an environment conducive to innovation and productivity in a distributed setting? Your answers to these questions will be pivotal in your ongoing leadership journey. 

Finally, I invite you to take action. Whether it’s initiating a conversation with your team about remote work dynamics, enrolling in a leadership development course, or simply applying a new approach to your next virtual meeting, the step you take today can have a profound impact on your leadership effectiveness tomorrow. 

Want to keep this conversation going? Feel free to reach out to us and let’s talk about how we can help your company with your distributed team’s strategy.