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Virtual Leadership: Collaboration in the Time of Crises from a Community, Planning, and Development Perspective

CAVO blog

Technology has changed and shaped the way business is conducted globally. From geopolitics, to multinational organizations, to small business enterprises, remote and satellite workspaces have become a new reality. Technology has changed education delivery that has forced traditional brick and mortar institutions to offer courses online. Religious institutions are using social media to connect with parishioners on Sunday mornings. Living in this new reality requires a new type of leader, one who can lead teams from a distance. Organizations are scouting out executive talent that can lead virtually, even in a crisis situation.

Leading Through Crises

The past two months have been an eye-opening experience for people worldwide. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has wreaked havoc, causing thousands of deaths and brought the U.S. economy to a screeching halt. As a Community Planning and Development Manager for a federal agency, I was asked to be flexible with my team in this COVID-19 pandemic era. Hence, on March 16, 2020, I authorized my team situational telework until further notice. At the time, I did not realize that my team would experience tornados while reporting on COVID statuses in and throughout our state. Particularly, one employee was without electricity and worked until the computer battery loss 100% power. 

However, the work has only intensified. People must be served. Communication and direction are channeled from several vantage points: Headquarters, the Region, to the Field. From executing grant agreements; to providing technical assistance to grantees; remote monitoring, assessing performance, hosting, and participating in webinars, conference calls, and meetings; the operation does not stop, and the work must get done. 

Leading People Virtually

Virtual leadership is using all forms of technology at one’s disposal to accomplish a shared set of goals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, my team and I use instant messaging, AT&T teleconferencing, e-mail, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx to communicate and stay connected. We have team meetings and All Hands Meetings on Thursdays to discuss hot topics and other business relating to the operations of the organization to better manage the state’s and local governments’ pandemic response efforts. Status reports are usually provided via e-mail and discussed on conference calls. While leading my team virtually, I focus on the volume and quality of work rather than time and attendance because autonomy and trust is critical when working with teams remotely.


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Dr. Lorenzo S. Claxton