Episode 132: Hybrid Work— Understanding The Leadership Advantages in Both Zones

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: February 29, 2024


After some initial uncertainty, most companies have now found their footing with respect to adopting office-based, remote, or hybrid working models. Despite a common belief that we’ve mastered the flexibility of working from anywhere, the reality is we’re still on a learning curve—and that’s perfectly acceptable. In today’s discussion, we aim to highlight the distinct strengths of leaders who operate in-office versus those who manage teams remotely. We will explore which leadership behaviors are most effective in each environment. Our goal is to better understand how to manage and encourage change effectively, providing clearer guidance to our hybrid workforce. This workforce is currently navigating the challenges of bridging two worlds, and we hope to help them leverage the best of both.

Discover more of our research on hybrid leadership practices in our 2024 Leadership Report.

Key Learnings

  1. Hybrid Workforces Require Adaptive Leadership: The transition to hybrid work models has highlighted the need for leaders to adapt their management styles to suit both in-office and remote environments. Effective leadership in these settings demands a nuanced understanding of how to leverage the distinct advantages of each work scenario to foster a cohesive and productive team dynamic.
  2. Importance of Connection and Engagement: Despite the convenience of remote work, the sense of belonging and connection to the organization plays a crucial role in employee satisfaction and loyalty. Malcolm Gladwell’s critique of remote work underscores the potential risk of detachment from the company culture, emphasizing the need for strategies that reinforce team unity and a sense of purpose beyond just earning a paycheck.
  3. Phenomenon of “Coffee Badging”: The trend of “coffee badging” illustrates a resistance among some employees to fully return to office-based work, preferring the flexibility and efficiency of remote work. This behavior signals a broader challenge for organizations to balance the desire for in-person interaction with the autonomy and productivity gains of working from home.
  4. Leadership Effectiveness in Different Settings: Research comparing the effectiveness of leaders in remote versus in-office settings reveals that office-based managers are perceived as having greater courage to implement change and better marketing skills. However, remote managers excel in fostering discretionary effort among their teams, highlighting the varied strengths that can be optimized in a hybrid model.
  5. Strategic Advantages of Hybrid Work Models: The hybrid work model emerges as a compelling solution that combines the best of both worlds. It allows for the strategic advantages of face-to-face interactions in the office, such as facilitating change and building strong interpersonal relationships, while also embracing the autonomy and enhanced productivity of remote work. The challenge for organizations lies in creating a hybrid model that supports both collaboration and independence, leveraging the unique benefits of each to achieve organizational goals and employee satisfaction.

Connect with Joe Folkman


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman and talk about their latest leadership development research. Find out more information and register here.


Maximizing Productivity in Hybrid Work: Strategies for Managers – Article by Joe Folkman