Ask most anyone to tell you why someone is a great leader, and you will likely hear that they are a role model.  Ask most who are leading remotely, and they will wonder what it means to be a long-distance role model. After all, how can you be a role model if people can’t even see you?

You Already Are a Long-Distance Role Model

Let’s start here:  if you are a leader, people are paying attention to you, every day.  Distance doesn’t really matter – they are already watching. It might not always be conscious on their part, but who you are and how you do you work has small and large impacts on how they do theirs, and what they understand success to be.  In a remote or distance context, here are just a few of the things we could include:

  • How you show up in meetings (and how often you have them)
  • How you lead your 1:1’s with them
  • How frequently you use your webcam (or not)
  • How often, and when, you send emails
  • How available you are to them – can they get time with you when needed?  How responsive are you?
  • Do you value your relationship with them?  Is it seen in your actions?

Before you get too comfortable with your own answers to these questions, remember this: people see your behavior, not your intentions. And people pay far more attention to your feet (and fingers) than they do your lips.

Decide What You Want to Model

Now that we know/remember that yes, we can/are a role model, even at a distance, we must think about this important question:

What are the values, ideas, and actions that we want others to follow?

Spend some time with this question. Be clear about what is important to you, and make sure you are living out those things in your daily work and routines.  Then and only then, will you be the role model you want to be for your team and those you work with.

Being a More Intentional Long-Distance Role Model

Once you have that picture for yourself, you can begin being more intentional in your actions, interactions, and communications with your team.  This includes:

  • Your meetings
  • Your emails
  • Your conversations
  • Your decisions
  • Your expectations
  • Your collaboration
  • Your time
  • Your approaches
  • And more

How will you know it is working?  When you see the behaviors, communications and interactions of your team mirroring the direction you want the team to head.  If you are leading more intentionally, they will notice, and over time their behaviors will begin to mirror yours.

Now you realize that you are already a long-distance role model and have some steps for having a greater impact.  Now it is your responsibility and opportunity to make a bigger positive difference with your actions – starting today.

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Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group ( He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.
Twice he has been named by as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists.

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