The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership
June 04, 2018
Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel have written a leadership primer for the remote workplace.
There have been many good books on the promise and perils of telecommuting and remote workplaces. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson's Remote: Office Not Required is one of the best books entirely devoted to the topic, but you'll find many more that devote a single chapter or section to advocating for remote work setups, and examining how to best arrange them. Maynard Webb doubled down on the points he made on teleworking with his Rebooting Work coauthor Carlye Adler in a compelling manifesto written for ChangeThis admonishing leaders to Layoff Your Buildings, Not Your People!
It is important, sometimes even inspirational, to consider the possibilities of what such arrangements can unleash in terms of productivity, gaining access to new talent, allowing flexibility for families, and even benefits to the planet by removing cars from the freeway and lessening the need for office space. Yet, as important as it is to continue to make those cases, among many others, it is equally true that such arrangements have become a simple reality of today's workplace—a term that is increasingly nebulous. Despite a few high-profile companies' retreats from such policies, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction. As Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel write in their own (forthcoming) ChangeThis manifesto:
More and more people are spending at least part of their time working at a distance from those they work with. Consider these facts:
- Today, according to Project Management Institute, 90% of project teams have at least one member (usually more) who aren’t co-located with the rest of the team.
- An increasing number of project teams and task forces are made up of people who don’t report to the same manager. The leaders of these matrixed teams must influence and lead people without being their boss or having traditional reporting relationships.
- Today, over 80% of white collar supervisors have at least one direct report who works in a different location—at least part time. This includes everyone from colleagues on the other side of the world, to a team member who has decided to work from home one day because of the weather. Either way, they aren’t sitting within arm’s reach of you or each other.
In such a reality, we need less books espousing the virtues of such arrangements, and more on how to lead them, which is exactly what Eikenberry and Turmel deliver with The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Being written by two men who spend most of their professional time as trainers and teachers, the book has a decidedly utilitarian bent, but is entertainingly illustrated with great stories and fun—as any trainer or teacher knows their presentations must be to keep an audience's attention.
It is also straightforward and to the point. The first pronouncement they make is that, regardless of what distance you lead from, "the principles of leadership haven't changed—they are principles." What has changed, and what matters most—"for the team members working at a distance, for you as their leader, and for the organization that you all serve"—is how you apply those principles. To help prioritize where a leader's focus is directed, they introduce the Three O Model of Leadership, which they illustrate with this simple figure:
The authors then dive deep into each leadership focus, devoting an entire section of the book to understanding them in turn before delivering a final section on developing other long-distance leaders in your organization. They will help you determine everything from what technologies and communications tools are right for you, to how to build the trust so necessary to lead others at a distance. There are assessments, checklists, and tools throughout, with links to more online. But, as trainers and teachers, they know it all comes back to how you use it all (and they will even explain how to use it in connection with other leadership models) in your organization. And that—like leadership at any distance—comes down to the actions you, and those you lead, take, and the results of those actions:
Leadership is not really something we have or possess; it is something that we do. When you think about leadership, think about actions and behaviors. The point of this book is to answer the question: What are the actions and behaviors that will help you help your teams (specifically remotely) get better results.
And if leadership is an action, that means it isn't a title or position. You are a leader when people follow you—if they aren't following, you aren't leading.
You may believe that it is harder to determine whether people are following you when they are working in remote locations, often working odd or alternate hours, but that is made easier with The Long-Distance Leader—a leadership primer for the remote workplace.
We have 20 copies available.