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Turning Over a New Leaf: Retool Your Leadership Skills in 2021

The workplace has changed dramatically, reshaping the skills modern managers need to be effective. Hone these skills to build a resilient, high-functioning team:

Remote work and blended teams were becoming the "new normal" before the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than creating new demand for blended teams, coronavirus simply accelerated demand that already existed.

For managers learning how to lead blended teams, however, the learning curve has grown suddenly steeper. The skills managers need to be effective today are different from those in 2019, or even in the first months of 2020.

Why Embrace Remote Work?

Pandemic protections aside, remote work offers several benefits for workers. Working remotely provides the flexibility needed for a more resilient work-life balance. It allows workers to focus on their jobs rather than the distractions of workplace socialization or the time-eating necessity of commuting.

For organizations, the benefits of remote or blended work include reducing overhead expenses and tapping into a talent pool unconstrained by geography.

Like any workplace arrangement, however, remote work creates new demands for managers to account for its unique challenges and their ability to lead effectively. Managers who build the right skills for remote work leadership position themselves, their teams and their company to leverage the benefits of remote work and minimize the challenges.


Businesses have made dozens of changes in recent months. Many of these changes fundamentally affected the business's core teams, processes and approach to work.

COVID-19 came with a host of uncertainties and unknowns. Teams that did well in the early months of the pandemic typically had one thing in common: They were able to adapt, responding to the unknown with the best available information they had and shifting their approach when new information became available.

In a remote-work world, managers will need to continue building on their abilities to adapt. Not only will they need to cultivate flexibility in their approach, but they'll also need to provide the communication, transparency, and support their teams need to adapt confidently as well.


Responding to the pandemic has been more than merely difficult. Most of 2020 has been spent facing monumental uncertainties, some of which were life-threatening.

Workers are becoming accustomed to certain aspects of the pandemic response, like wearing masks, social distancing, and regular handwashing. However, the uncertainties of the pandemic still take a toll on workers' mental, emotional and physical health.

Managers with strong empathy skills can better help their teams address these challenges and build resilience. For these managers, seeking to understand others' mental and emotional states are essential to informed, holistic leadership. Practicing acceptance without judgment plays a key role, as do efforts to actively listen and make authentic connections with others.


For many companies, one of the biggest hurdles to making an all-remote work shift is the concern about worker accountability. Many managers are accustomed to in-house workforces that respond to constant supervision by focusing on their jobs. When these workers go remote, managers may worry they won't be productive without someone watching over them.

Studies indicate that these fears are mostly overblown. Productivity isn't negatively affected by remote work in most cases. For some workers, productivity increases when they can better control their work environment and the level and type of distractions involved.

Regular communication can help managers of remote and blended teams keep their workers accountable. Regular team check-ins via videoconference or email, for instance, help teams stay on their toes because they know they'll be called upon to explain to colleagues how they spent their day.


Along with accountability, collaboration is a major concern for many managers seeking to transition their teams to remote work. Can workers continue to work together effectively if they aren't in the same physical space?

Studies indicate the answer is yes, as long as the manager creates a remote environment that fosters cooperation. Project management platforms can help boost collaboration by ensuring everyone is on the same page with each project. Regular communication, transparency, and empathy also help teams collaborate by building bonds that allow workers to express their ideas and concerns without fear of repercussions.

A world powered by remote work looks very different than its predecessors. Such a world demands new skills from managers and teams alike. Managers who focus on communication, empathy, and adaptability can foster collaboration and accountability on their teams, keeping productivity and engagement high.