The Omnipresent Leader: Leading a Virtual Organization

In short, an Omnipresent Leader focuses more on achieving the business outcomes rather than the means by which they achieve them.
The Omnipresent Leader: Leading a Virtual Organization

While the 21st century produced some great Leaders who were adept in handling transformational changes, none of them had anticipated or handled the mother of all change – leading a virtual organization – until this year, when their employees were forced to work from home. Every function within an organization now, be it business strategy, recruitment, employee training & engagement, sales, customer service, operations or delivery, is undergoing a remarkable change in business model. The organization destined to thrive during this “mother of all change” season is one who has the maximum number of Omnipresent Leaders.

Omnipresent Leaders are the one who isn’t limited to a particular space. They have their ears and eyes in every corner of their organization and beyond. They are neither bothered by the vastness of their organization nor by the empty seats in their boardroom or meeting room. They are neither perturbed by their absence in meetings happening simultaneously nor by the presence of people on a mobile screen. They just set direction, establish goals along with their team, and then go incognito only to reappear in flesh and blood when required.

In today’s scenario, where COVID-19 has upended every norms and notions of working from an office building, businesses would do well by grasping the idea of working forever in a virtual mode. Gone are those days where there used to be a set place with a set team working on a set agenda for the foreseeable future using routine work practices. Today, requirements are thrown in the air by anonymous folks and the one who quickly understands and fulfils those requirements on the fly wins.

To succeed at this level and in perilous times such as this, we need Omnipresent Leaders who are not restricted to a single location, a single idea and few star performers. Ask yourself questions like: do you really know your business priorities? Are you applying the Pareto principle when it comes to achieving the business outcomes? Are you focusing on those areas which yields maximum results or are you anxious about your inability to stem the tide in every corner?

Stephen Covey in his much acclaimed book, “The seven habits of highly effective people,” describes the circle of concern and the circle of influence. According to Mr Covey, successful people are those who understand and respect the contours of these two circles. They just focus on areas which are within their area of influence and don’t unnecessarily concern themselves with things they can’t control. Omnipresent Leaders too realise there are areas within a virtual organization which are off-limits to them. They just use their power and time judiciously only on things which contributes to positive energy.

Here is a simple checklist to find whether you are an Omnipresent Leader or does your organization have one. You may probably not be an Omnipresent Leader, if you do the following in a virtual organization.

  1. Making decisions: If you still insist everyone from your global team to login to your meeting room only at your preferred time or make decisions only on the basis of emails-chains.
  2. Assigning tasks: If you had started assigning 25% more work to your staff who suddenly started working from home.
  3. Chairing meetings: If you demand to see your staff’s face in every virtual meeting or schedule far too many meetings in a day.
  4. Employee communication: If you insist on being copied in every email communication or do not communicate business/client updates regularly.
  5. Monitoring progress: If you had recently shifted to daily status reporting from a weekly status reporting method.
  6. Motivating employees: If you are accumulating appreciation notes of your staff and conveying them only once a week/month.
  7. Working atmosphere: If you allow fun events and other team meetings to happen only in your presence and your staff to work only within a confined time zone.

In short, an Omnipresent Leader focuses more on achieving the business outcomes rather than the means by which they achieve them. This does not mean an Omnipresent Leader adopts “laissez-faire” style of leadership or tacitly allows unethical practices within their organization. It only means this type of leader trusts his/her team to achieve the business goals at their own style, while still adhering to the work deadlines and quality commitments.

Omnipresent Leaders aren’t afraid to be lonely. On the contrary, they are present everywhere as their ideals, values and directions guide their staff’s every decision. Borrowing the immortal words of Shakespeare, only an Omnipresent Leader could truly echo, “All the world’s my office and every potential men and women are my partners. They have their exits and entrances to my Organization oblivious to me. And one man in his time plays many parts just as one part can be played by any men or women anywhere.”

The article has been authored by Billy Paul Ebenezer( L&OD Specialist)

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