10 Key Skills for Collaborative Leadership in a Virtual World

The global workplace is becoming more and more reliant on virtual teams. An IWG survey reports that 62% of businesses around the world have more flexible workplaces.

Increasing amounts of teams are seeing the benefits of remote work and are leaving the office, and are communicating through video conferencing apps like Microsoft Teams and other collaboration software. Some companies are even starting virtual teams from the get-go, with people that they have never met in person.

All said, though, every virtual team needs collaborative leadership in such a virtual world. And this can be an intimidating job. Being a good leader in the workplace is one thing. But managing people that you can’t even physically see is an entirely different experience.

Through these uncharted times, leaders are looked to for guidance. But it’s wrong to assume we must turn back to a command-and-control style of leadership.

What we desperately need now is collaborative leadership.

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group of employees in conference room collaboratively working with virtual team on video call.

What Is Collaborative Leadership?

Collaborative leadership breaks down hierarchies, bringing together business executives, managers and employees. Sharing information organically, everyone has a say, as leadership empowers working across functional boundaries, with increased levels of collaboration.

The aim is to achieve new business efficiencies through collaborative efforts—simply working together.

Why Collaborative Leadership Works

Collaborative leadership is currently a critical need in our new normal of working from home. Research shows it’s in high demand, as we need leaders to help pave the way in a virtual world.

Consider that Millennials make up approximately 40% of the workforce. This generation is uncomfortable with top-down leadership roles. Instead, Gen Y sees leadership empowering others.

Of course, this expectation is spilling over and influencing Gen X and even Gen Z. A younger, remote workforce is looking for leaders to empower. That is, to serve and enable them with collaboration, as opposed to just telling them what to do and how to do it.

Those practicing collaborative leadership explain that nowadays a leader’s job must remove hurdles that keep a team from reaching success. Rather than toss over a to-do list, leaders must encourage a team to be self-directed. And allowed to ask for help, which must be understood as a strength, not a weakness. Because, with collaboration, the team moves ahead.

Collaborative leadership boosts intrinsic motivation, resulting in team members working on tasks together and longer—as much as 64% longer, stats show. And it increases positive emotions, enhances business agility, and collective intelligence.

While the key fundamentals of leadership hold true in a collaborative setting, and in both face-to-face and virtual scenarios, there are unique and significant challenges.

Business leader collaborated with other team members.

Here are 10 key skills that leaders evolving to a more collaborative state need to focus their energy to effectively lead.

5 Key Skills for Collaborative Leadership

Collaborate at the top first. Leaders must set a positive tone by being good collaborators themselves. Collaborative leadership isn’t just between the manager and his or her team members. The senior leadership team, composed of CXOs and their direct reports, must also work as a team, promoting a collaborative mindset at all levels.

Be the model; but be real. In other words, model the behavior you want others to see and do. Managers may need to let their guards down and open themselves to receiving help and entertaining new ideas.

Build partnership skills by developing relationships. Collaboration is not possible without first creating relationships. If your employees and you are working remotely, take time to see each other through video. By seeing each other’s faces, it helps make meetings feel human.

Focus on communication. The key here is to adopt open communication styles. Anyone should be able to easily talk to anyone else. And this should take place at any level, at any time, and without fear of reprimand.

Share common goals and purpose. Clarify a common purpose among the team by looking at the bigger picture. Then, connect individual team member goals with higher-level team and business goals.

5 More Key Skills to Lead Collaboratively

Insource for new ideas. New, required skillsets for any team must first be found internally. And managers shouldn’t simply rely on personnel files. They need to ask. Find the hidden resources within the existing team, rather than outsourcing to fill business requirements to gain success.

Wisely use time. No matter the circumstances, give your team your time and give them your full attention when you do. Efficiently integrate collaborative leadership into processes and workflows.

Define expectations. Clearly distinguish the roles and tasks for each team member. Of course, base those on each member’s expertise and desired professional growth.

Be humble. This is simple. Egos have no place in collaborative leaderships.

Acknowledge collaborative achievements.  When all is said and done, collaborative leaders must deliver group acknowledgement. And edify the process of working together, along with the net win.

IT engineer working with laptop in conference room.

Rewards of Collaborative Leadership

There is power, weight and momentum through collaborative leadership across teams, departments and businesses. But these require efforts to last and effect change.

By honing your collaborative skills, the benefits of such a leadership style can be bountiful, and not limited to:

  • A shared sense of purpose, because you’re building commitment from the start.
  • Increased accountability as team members take ownership of the work and address resistance along the way.
  • Closer teams able to work together more effectively and efficiently.
  • An up-to-date and engaged workforce.
  • A boost in employee loyalty.
  • The opportunity to develop employees into business leaders.
  • The creation of inclusive relationships.
Young female employee working virtually collaborated with other team members.


Even though the current pandemic is disrupting every organization, savvy business leaders must seize the opportunity to find advantage amid the chaos dripping from this crisis.

The best will develop new ways of working. New ways of leading. And new strategies for growth. Now is the time to use this moment to rethink your leadership style for the future.

System Soft Technologies (SSTech) can be your partner and trusted advisor. We offer IT Staff Augmentation to help discover your organization’s next round of collaborative leaders.

We also deliver a Digital Employee Experience, which assists in the conquest of reaching the pinnacle of collaborative leadership by keeping your employees more engaged and enabled with improved connectivity and enhanced collaboration, and more insight and analytics that support predictive decision making.https://sstech.us/business-solutions/digital-workplace/

Contact us to get your organization moving from top-down to team-centric.

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About the Author: Sabreen Dimero

Sabreen Picture

Sabreen Dimero serves as the HR Manager at System Soft Technologies. When Sabreen isn’t traveling, frolicking in the mountains, snuggling up to a good book or hunting for the best donuts in town, she often shares her knowledge about HR Administration, Diversity and Inclusion, Benefits Management and Employee Relations, among other people-in-the-workplace topics. Her dog, Finn, approves.