Is Remote Work a Leadership Killer?

Louis Gerstner, the retired CEO of IBM, wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal sharing his view that leadership is learned through direct observation (or either good or bad leaders). He argues that fully remote work will make it increasingly difficult to learn to be a good leader. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. I agree I learned a lot from observing leaders in the office over my years at Intel and Paypal. But the vast majority of my team and partners were at other sites. In the first decade or so, there were no video calls, just phone calls and emails. With the introduction of desktop video and high quality room video conferencing, it got even easier.

What I did do was learn to ask questions to understand the thinking behind the behaviors I observed in the leaders around me. I tried to explain myself and my choices to my team and the managers underneath me so they could learn from my strengths and my mistakes, which I shared deliberately. I dedicated time to coach and be coached. I made sure I set up non-work social time with individuals and as a team. My favorite was what I called Virtual Lunches. Schedule a conference room at each site for 11:30 or 12:30 local, have everyone grab their lunch, and then just catch up on vacations, family, etc. It gave us a chance to reconnect and let me know what was going on in the lives of the people I seldom interacted with so I better understood what I could do as their leader and colleague.

So, do you agree with Louis? What are the things you’ve done to become a stronger leader as teams have become increasingly remote?

Click here to see the original LinkedIn article.

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