Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Leading from a distance

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It’s becoming increasingly more common for companies to hire remote employees who work from home. This trend dates back several years. I’ve noticed, however, that companies are increasingly hiring managers and even executives that live and work remotely. This trend is not new for sales teams, but it is (or at least seems to me) a new trend in non-sales areas like product management.

As product managers we value face-to-face contact and communication, both with our teams and with customers. Leading a team from a distance is certainly not the ideal. However, getting the best person for the job — who may live far away from corporate HQ — might be the best thing for the company. The evolution of technology helps remote leaders manage more effectively. There’s a shift happening in the way companies work. Art Petty wrote a great post on living, learning and leading in an increasingly virtual world. He says:

One of the critical leadership skills of our time is developing comfort and competence at leading distributed teams. There are still some firms that insist on their managers and leaders being housed within a line of sight, but they are showing their lack of understanding of how the world is changing. The literature on leading remotely seems to offer superficial guidance from people adapting old models to new situations. I suspect that as time moves on, the profession of leadership will evolve to take into account the very distinct skills and approaches needed to lead effectively while never coming into personal contact.

I agree with Art that the world is changing and we need to learn to communicate all over again, even if it means leading from a distance.

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