Leading From Home

Leading From Home

The Tangible and Intangible Elements of Leadership in the #StayAtHome Times

by Uma Muthuraaman

Social distancing has brought us very close together, face to face, virtually. Even in the pre-corona times, one didn’t sit so close to one’s teammates to spot the fine lines on their face. Now every gray hair, wrinkle, and crease is broadcast (and alas even recorded!) simultaneously alongside daily discussions and decisions.

While video conferencing and online meetings have been in existence for decades, the new public health necessity currently denies leaders other forms of connecting and team building. The weekly luncheon date, that firm handshake, the hug, the foot waggle, and even the ebola-elbow are now all too unhygienic.

Our collective confinement disrupts the way we work, collaborate, and lead. It forces us to re-think new and effective ways to exhibit leadership and inspire the team in the era of social distancing. Here are some useful reminders shared in a lighthearted manner to lessen the gloom and fear that overshadow us.

The Tangibles

Phone and laptop cameras render leaders in three (screen) sizes – gallery, active, or mini. The latest trend in work attire is button-down shirts with yoga pants, silk blouses with a velour tracksuit bottoms, and Birkenstocks for the board meeting. You would agree that sneakers serve little purpose these days. Contemporary business attire demands a chic or dapper look only waist-upwards. This mild sartorial liberation adds many valuable minutes to a leader’s workday. Still, it would be wise to rearrange one’s work wardrobe to reflect hygiene (the current global trend) and inspire the team with a smart #workfromhomelook adapted to a screen.
A tip! Place your laptop’s camera at your eye level for a professional angle. Prop them with books or cartons or cushions to achieve that.

Watch out! The rise of the waist-up fashion trends

and Other Visual Elements

Many personal items like coffee cups, children’s hand-drawn art, and books on the desktop that were a small part of cubicles in an office landscape get spotlighted, intentionally or unintentionally. To sum it up visually: a team that viewed you via a

wide-angle lens in the pre-corona times now sees you via a macro lens. Seemingly inconspicuous elements like the background and desktop items that didn’t speak too loudly now become personal statements and identifiers magnified and broadcast to many around the world. Applying thought and some creativity can project the image and persona aligned to your leadership style and role. Even clutter can be charismatic, but your intention makes the difference.

 Like on Instagram, where individual posts are curated to fit a look and style, leaders could benefit by paying attention to the backdrop and desktop to signal thoughtfulness, at the very least. The purpose of this call to detail is not to stage a superficial image online but to ensure authenticity with attentiveness.

Tips! First, these visual elements would also as conversations starters. Second, if the background and desktop are all set, but you have a bad hair day, or Junior is throwing a tantrum around your desk, you can regain control by tapping the turnoff video and mute buttons in your favor and assume a listening mode. A good leader listens and speaks in the end, you remember?

Watch out! A guaranteed outcome of our work-from-home days would be the rise of a new digital real estate for personal branding – online meetings and break out rooms!


The Intangible


The global virus exposes the ephemeral nature of corporate titles and corner offices as projections of power. So what is that quality that makes a leader inspirational in-person, on-screen, in good times and in bad times?

Global leadership programs tend to rationalize the ability to inspire others as charisma, charm, and body language. They even offer academic modules titled body savvy with carefully illustrated hand gestures and body positions to teach aspirants to look like a leader.

The ability to lead others doesn’t come from striking a carefully practiced pose or posture but rather from human virtues that transcend showmanship and tangible assets. It is a set of intangibles that can move the hearts and minds of people to be the best they can be! It is a leader’s presence.

This impalpable presence is the leader’s mental state – a state established in a zone of silence. Calmness and focus are consequences of a few minutes of stillness – a few minutes of sitting and doing nothing. Presence speaks more than words. Clarity of thought and dynamism in action results from just a few minutes of meditation! And meditation has no side effects except a calm countenance and a frequent smile – both of which can conquer even the most difficult people.


A Tip! TLEX offers two complimentary mindfulness sessions in a day led by their trainers. Just join and benefit.

Watch out! A team that meditates together stays together (and are more creative, optimistic, and productive!)