Defining the Leader in an Agile and Remote Working Environment
Keywords:agile working, remote working, leadership styles, scoping literature review
Identifying the characteristics required in a person who is called upon to provide leadership in an agile and remote working environment is important because not only does it enable the formulation of useful suggestions for organisations that embrace such modes of working but it can also help reveal what may be required of leaders who face the challenges and opportunities associated with the future of work. A few scholars have tried to shed some light on this topic by addressing the question of what kind of leadership might be appropriate in a context defined by these new ways of working, but none of these have arrived at a satisfactorily clear set of conclusions regarding the style of leadership that best suits the management of remote working teams, or in respect of the characteristics of an agile leader. This exploratory and descriptive study aims to close this gap in current knowledge by means of a ‘scoping literature review’. This study is based on an investigation of 54 relevant studies – found via two interdisciplinary databases and also by manual search – which were analysed and classified according to their year of publication, research methods, subject areas of the journal in which they were published, and main topics. The findings suggest that relevant conversations on the relation between leadership and agile and remote working mostly developed during the last two years, which suggests that they may well have been triggered by the digital transformation and social distancing requirements that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper discusses how this literature defines and describes the leadership qualities and skills required in this new environment, as well as whether and how different approaches to leadership can produce innovative work behaviours that suit this changed context. It is hoped that the present review will serve as a guide for organisations and for existing and future leaders wishing to identify the best managerial and leadership styles to adopt. This review also offers an overview of how the literature has progressed on this topic and is intended to be usable as a benchmark for future studies.