The Long Distance Leader

Essential Coronavirus Work From Home Tech Tips

The Long-Distance Leader

Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership

The Project Management Institute reports that 90% of project teams now include one or, often, more workers who operate from different locations than their supervisors and teammates. Nearly 80% of managers now supervise a worker or workers at remote locations. Many leaders face isolation because their team members are far away. These “longdistance leaders” need to use a variety of tools specifically designed to address distance leadership issues and concerns. Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel’s comprehensive, research-based manual offers valuable insights for those who lead remote workers, including 19 rules for longdistance leaders.


  • Remote leadership’s fundamental rule is that leadership always matters more than location.
  • Follow 19 rules to achieve remarkable remote leadership.
  • For “long-distance leaders,” the principles of leadership don’t change, but the leadership techniques will differ.
  • Long-distance leaders and remote workers must routinely seek objective feedback.
  • Human behavior stays the same regardless of worker locations.


Remote leadership’s fundamental rule is that leadership always matters more than location. In the opinion of NASA rocket scientists, leadership is complex and multilayered. When asked which is more complicated – leadership or rocket science – many of NASA’s most admired and experienced thinkers decisively identified leadership.

Rocket science calls for exactitude: careful math involving precise numbers meticulously poured into elegantly conceived formulas. Factor in everything properly, do the correct calculations and you can feel pretty confident about the precision of your answers. In contrast, leadership is imprecise and involves complicated, indecisive, changeable human beings.

“Management by walking around doesn’t work if you are in Seattle and part of your team is in Sydney or Singapore.”

Leading people is difficult enough when you and your team are in the same place, and becomes more complex when the boss is in one location and the employees work somewhere else. Leadership calls for action that leads to identifying and meeting goals and achieving results. Leading calls for “vision, influence, direction and development,” even with distant employees. Take as the first tenet of leading from afar that leadership matters more than location.

“It’s easy to discount the challenges of the way the workplace works today, especially the impact of distance and technology-enabled communication, and just focus on what has always made leaders effective.”

There are19 rules to achieve remarkable remote leadership.

These first five precepts which can help you improve and enjoy your role as a long-distance leader are:

1. Put “leadership first, location second”:

Though fairly rare in the past, remote leadership is an established fact in the business world today. With the development of the internet and email and the rise of long-distance workers, remote leadership is increasingly common. A 2017 survey of 225 managers who supervise local and remote workers indicates that some managers worry about what their remote workers do during their workdays. Regardless, they must focus attention on the people they lead – without placing too much emphasis on those workers’ remote locations.

2. “Leading remotely” means leading differently:

You might be great at face-to-face communication. You speak well, you listen well, you always focus your attention directly on the other party and you read body language well. However, these skills aren’t of much use when you are in one location and the people you lead are somewhere else. As a long-distance leader, learn to communicate with nuance and clarity in emails and instant messages and when using the latest online collaboration and meeting platforms, and other high-tech tools.

3. Heed “interpersonal dynamics”:

Having workers in different locations from their leaders alters their relationship even though both participants try to avoid strain. Interacting without ever meeting face to face can stymie clear communication. Both parties will feel the lack of facial cues and tonal subtleties. Leading departments that are spread over a wide area may mean that you as a leader bear complex responsibility with insufficient hands-on authority. Still, the basic principles of leading don’t change – nor does the need to develop solid working relationships. Effective leaders understand how to nourish and sustain positive relations that are based in virtual communications.

4. “Use technology as a tool”:

Stress is common for long-distance leaders. The “Remote Leadership Model” offers an antidote. It involves several interconnected gears: The “leadership and management gear” includes creating relationships, pursuing continual self-education and being accountable. The “tools and technology gear” includes understanding and exploiting the technology at hand and making sure that your comfort with one or more tools doesn’t lead you to use them too much. And, the “skill and impact gear” includes being willing to adopt and embrace new technology.

5. Follow the “Three O Model of Leadership”:

This model involves 1) “outcomes,” whereby you guide people to specific goals; 2) “others,” whereby other people become your primary tool; and 3) “ourselves,” whereby no action, good or bad, takes place without you. Wise leaders prioritize outcomes and other people. Over long distances, focusing on outcomes means dealing with workers’ isolation and the absence of “environmental cues,” such as you gain when touring a workplace.

If you find it useful please share this link with your colleagues at INTECH and your friends.