Remote Leadership: Which Type Of Leader Are You?

remote leadership

The remote work revolution has allowed many firms and entrepreneurs to go fully remote. Like any other kind of leadership, remote leadership too can be challenging.

Remote leaders connect the dots, get the cogs moving and lead the company.

In this article, we’ll try to understand the different types of remote leadership models, their pros and cons, and the kind of leadership style that suits you best. But before we dive into the details, let’s understand the anatomy of a leader.

The Anatomy Of A Leader

Leadership has been traditionally associated with toughness, determination, vision, and intelligence. While all these qualities are needed, they are not enough.

Daniel Goleman, a famous American psychologist, suggested that an effective leader should also have five qualities.

1.    Self-Awareness

The Temple of Apollo in Delphi greets its pilgrims with the inscription- “know thyself!”. The advice dating back thousands of years is still valid today.

Leaders with a high degree of self-awareness understand how their feelings and actions affect their team members and work. When you’re self-aware, you’ll not surround yourself with an echo chamber; you’d know if something goes wrong and how it went wrong.

2.    Self-Regulation

When you have control over your feelings, impulses, and actions, you’ll be able to create an environment of trust. And you’d know “trust” is the most valuable currency in a remote work setting. You build when you let your teammates work on their own and do not constantly ask them for updates when it’s not needed.

3.    Motivation

A leader cannot work in isolation. You need to constantly communicate with your team members to bring the best out of them. They should be included and feel part of a larger picture. Here is where motivation comes in.

Motivation is not in the form of monetary benefits or a promise of a promotion (although it can be); it is about making your team members treat office work as their own.

4.    Empathy

Workplaces can often feel mechanical. Deadlines, tasks, meetings, and some occasional meet-ups can often lack any emotion. Moreover, in a remote work setting, things can become slightly lonely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re an empathetic leader, your team is bound to grow without any external pressure.

Empathy is not about pleasing people. It’s about understanding and acting on problems from your team members’ POV.

5.    Social Skill

You should have the ability to create networks, build relationships, and an ability to communicate effectively. Social skills don’t come into play only when you deal with your teammates but also when looking for clients, business partners, and others.

Types Of Remote Leadership Models

remote leadership

Like everything else, remote leaders also come in different types. Not all styles work best in all situations. Each of them has its pros and cons.

1.    Democratic Leadership

If you’re a leader who consults all team members before making a decision, you’re a democratic leader. You value all opinions, and no view is unequal. You hold frequent brainstorming sessions with your team and believe that no idea is a bad idea.

Once you consider all ideas, you – as a leader- will make a final decision.

Benefits of being a democratic leader:

  • Your team members will feel that they are equal stakeholders in the company. It will enhance their creativity and productivity.
  • The morale of your team will increase.
  • You create an overall healthy work atmosphere.

Drawbacks of this model:

  • It may slow down decision-making- addressing all concerns can be difficult.
  • The organization can be divided into multiple factions to influence decision-making.
  • Not ideal for crises or times when you need to make decisions fast. 

When does it work best?

The democratic model works best for smaller teams. For bigger teams, taking everybody’s opinion may not be plausible.

This  model is also known as participative or facilitative leadership.


2.    Laissez-faire Leadership

“Laissez-faire” means “let them do” in French.

In Economics 101, you would’ve probably studied that Laissez-faire means “free market.” Like a free market economy, a laissez-faire leader lets their team members make most of the decisions. They, however, intervene to give feedback and suggest changes.

Benefits of being a laissez-faire leader:

  • Team members feel more valued. 
  • You empower even the newer recruits and help them grow.
  • Values team member skill-sets.

Drawbacks of this model:

  • Laissez Faire leadership needs an active participation of all employees and managers.
  • The team can lose sight if leaders don’t give accurate feedback.
  • Every team member needs to be highly skilled.

When does it work best?

This model works best when you have a small group of people on your team. A highly decentralized decision-making approach can be challenging to manage a larger team.

Laissez-faire leadership is also known as delegative or hands-off management.

3.    Transactional Leadership

Transactional leaders usually follow the principles of classical conditioning. They have rewards for good work and punishments/interventions when team members don’t meet expectations. Leaders here are observant and strive for efficiency.

While the decision-making process mainly rests with the leader, team members are occasionally consulted.

Benefits of transactional leadership:

  • Team members are motivated to perform.
  • Decisions are made quickly as it mainly rests with the leader.

Drawbacks of this model:

  • Team members are externally motivated by the lure of rewards. However, intrinsic motivation can still be missing.
  • Decision-making is centralized.

When does it work best?

It works best when your primary aim is to increase the productivity of individual members of your team.

4.    Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders are inspiring. They tend to have grand visions for the company’s future. They often encourage their teammates to think outside the box.

Transformational leaders aim to bring out a transformation not only in the company but also in individual members of the team.

Benefits of transformational leadership:

  • Encouragement to innovation.
  • Belief in every team member.

Drawbacks of this model:

  • Not every leader can create a personality cult.
  • Leaders may not necessarily know what is suitable for individual members.

When does it work best?

Transformational leaders are best when you need a creativity boost in the company. This model works best in companies that face repeated problems and require problem solvers.

5.    Paternalistic Leadership

Paternalistic leaders usually go beyond their means to help an upset team member. For example, if a member is facing a severe illness, paternalistic leaders ensure that the company pays for the treatment and is with them during their low times.

Benefits of paternalistic leadership:

  • Team member retention is high.
  • All your team members feel cared for.
  • Employee-employer bond is strong.

Drawbacks of this model:

  • Potential for favoritism among employees.

When does it work best?

It works best when the company has a small team size.

6.    Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is the opposite of a democratic leadership style. Decision-making is highly centralized and most often rests with the leader.

An autocratic leader is highly focused and is driven with clarity. However, employees aren’t consulted with significant decisions.

Benefits of autocratic leadership:

  • Decision-making is quick.
  • The company can tide through difficult situations easily.

Drawback of this model:

  • Leaders might surround themselves with echo chambers.
  • Team members can feel alienated
  • The company may develop a rigid hierarchy.

When does it work best?

It works best when the company is going through a crisis.

Autocratic leadership is also known as coercive and authoritarian leadership.


1.    What is a Remote Leader?

A remote leader is someone who manages or leads a team from home or anywhere in the world. The leader is not physically present in an office space.

2.    What styles of leadership are preferred when working remotely?

The remote leaders are those who are transactional and democratic. However, if you have a highly skilled team, Laissez Faire leadership is a good option. However, its best not to be autocratic around your teammates.

3.    What are the characteristics of a remote leader?

Remote leaders can handle their team from a remote setting. They maintain trust and help maintain a healthy work-life balance.

What Type Of Leadership Model Should You Adopt?

The best kind of leader is a mix of all types. An organization is a dynamic entity. It goes through numerous periods of boom and bust. A leader must don various hats and master the art of being democratic and autocratic according to the situation.


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