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Organizations beware: Remote work may threaten leadership development

by | May 23, 2022 | Public Relations

With tight labor markets and more employees seeing to work from home, employers want to oblige their employees by offering flexible and remote work arrangements. Almost daily, there are articles, some accompanied with data, which seek to provide firms the “sweet spot” on balancing remote work with productivity.

At the same time, companies wonder about the degree to which remote work arrangements might impede overall work effectiveness. Up until now, however, no one has examined the lifeblood of organizations—that of leadership development—and the impact remote work might have on how the pipeline for tomorrow’s leaders are developed now.

Recent research conducted by the award-winning Buccino Leadership Institute of Seton Hall University helps shed light on this critical question. What is especially novel about the Institute’s research project, the Future of Leadership Survey, is that researchers pose questions about, among other topics, leadership development for those now entering the workforce—Generation Z.

Has Gen Z seen a diminishment of leadership development at work because of remote work?

Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.” Fortunately, this research also provides practical insights on how to mitigate the ill effects of remote work on this critical development. The respondents to the survey, those from 18 to 25 years old, agree that the pandemic and the shift this created in work habits has negatively impacted their own growth as leaders. These diminished growth opportunities included:

  • The inability to observe the role model impact leaders have on respondents’ leadership development, including seeing the leaders in action and their communication style.
  • The inability to have access to all-important high-touch leadership development opportunities, as well as access to leading initiatives and learning informally about job progression opportunities.

“We know that the “one-minute manager” style of leadership works. Organizations are losing opportunities daily to give feedback, express gratitude, inspire excellence and more–these acts help advance leadership development, regardless of one’s formal leadership role,” said Steven Lorenzet, Ph.D., co-author for the survey, in a news release.

The research also indicated that if firms manage to keep remote work to less than 50 percent, there is a slight positive uptick in certain leadership growth dimensions

If, however, employees experienced more than 50 percent of their work remotely, the negative impact on leadership development is observed.

Since respondents value the role model impact of leaders on their own leadership development, there must be strategic consideration of the “who and when” in designing remote arrangements. In other words, if people’s “50 percent in the office time” is coordinated to be at the same time, the chances are increased that today’s younger generation will observe both the structured and more occasional instances of observing leaders. These observations include working with others, dealing with clients, working with peers, handling the many one-minute-manager interactions and all the other leadership glue that keeps a team growing. More specifically, “any 50 percent” of the time is not the same as a “coordinated 50 percent” of the time. For the latter, the entering workforce can observe the contact sport that is leadership, from the many upper-level team members with whom they work.

Read the executive summary here.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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