It’s next to the oft-mentioned water cooler, or in conversations had in passing in the hallways, that much of work seems to get done. Leaders benefit from the informal opportunities to check in with their team that face-to-face working allows for.

At least for the very near-term, many of us can no longer benefit from reading the body language of those we lead or running over to a colleagues’ desk to congratulate them on a job done well. Remote working may be a permanent facet of work going forward. How are leaders to adapt to this new world? The answer lies in bringing formality to one’s leadership.

There are many definitions of what leadership is, and the toolkit of practices that a leader uses is equally varied. However, a few key elements of what leadership looks like ‘on the court’ are common:

  1. Leaders set the vision, or mandate, for a team to deliver upon.
  2. Leaders inspire.
  3. Leaders hold themselves accountable and ensure an environment of accountability is present.
  4. Leaders set expectations, for both key deliverables and ways of working.
  5. Leaders model the behavior they expect in others.
  6. Leaders champion the work of their team in the organization and protect the interests of his or her team from external forces.

You probably have a few characteristics or actions to add to that list, but the point is that you use some version of it. In a context that makes informal interactions a challenge, a leader has to make formal and direct what he or she is intending to cause. Subtlety cannot be conveyed over a webinar. Approval, disappointment, inspiration, breakdowns…all must be brought to the attention of a team with rigor and clarity. Facing a team and saying, “we’re going to take a moment and get inspired,” or, “I am going to hold myself accountable for something I promised,” is entirely appropriate in the new environment.

Above all, leaders have to make a newfound commitment to being cause in the matter of their teams and their businesses’ success. One way to accomplish this is by bringing formality to one’s leadership.

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