Hybrid Leadership Fundamentals

Hybrid leaders
by Deborah Bell

As Vice President, Consulting, Deborah conducts assessments, manages consulting projects, and designs and delivers custom solutions. She enjoys building relationships with her clients and uncovering their needs so she can serve as a trusted adviser and business partner.

Research-Based Model of Effective Hybrid Leadership

An Associate Professor of Management at the George Washington School of Business and her colleagues conducted a metanalysis including over 3 decades of research on virtual leadership1.  This research served as the basis for what they termed the CAARE Model.  In this piece we summarize the components defined by Dr. N. Sharon Hill and give practical advice on how to hire leaders who are naturally inclined to exhibit the CAARE behaviors.


Each workgroup leader should configure a hybrid model based on each individual’s tasks and group goals.  This means that they need to be able to see the big picture (how the team will function as a group) and apply logic to decide what tasks each individual can do at home versus in the office.  

Autonomy and Alignment 

Giving people autonomy means giving up some control and trusting them to do what they say they will do. This doesn’t mean that you can just let people do whatever they want whenever they want.  It requires the leader to align each team member’s work with the group’s goals.  The researchers found that the most effective hybrid team leaders do these types of things to gain alignment:

  • Clarify how each employee’s goals connect to group and organizational priorities and objectives.

  • Sharing of activities and accomplishments: Using shared calendars and work status tracking software can help the team see how each member is contributing to the group’s goals.  But the researchers noted that this works best when combined with the below.

  • Team Level Agreement: The leader engages with the team to jointly come up with requirements that all team members agree to uphold.  For instance, core hours of availability, expected time to respond to communications from coworkers, and status reporting requirements. 


Dr. Hill stated it clearly and simply: Trust is the bedrock of successful hybrid work.  This can be fostered by the leader and all team members displaying transparency and accountability.  The leader should also create opportunities for the entire group to socialize and interact with one another.  The leader can coordinate virtual or in-person events and implement technology that helps the team stay connected.


A key issues is proximity bias, whereby leaders see those who are in the office with them more frequently as performing better. Dr. Hill’s suggestions include:

  • While all leaders should have weekly one-on-ones, it is even more critical in hybrid situations to ensure that all team members have equal access to coaching from their leader and equal time to be a voice in decisions.

  • Research shows that when some meeting participants are in the room and others join virtually, the former tend to have more air time.  To give equal air time to all members, leaders should specifically ask each individual joining virtually for their input.  And some leaders have everyone join meetings virtually, even those in the same office, to ensure that all team members have the same experience.

Hiring Effective Hybrid Team Leaders

So how do you find leaders who are likely to exhibit the behaviors defined in the CAARE model?  We recommend assessing the following characteristics with valid psychometric tools that measure the Big 5 personality traits and leadership style and structured interviews.

1. Trust – This relates to the AUTONOMY and RELATIONSHIP aspects of the model.  It is a compound personality trait that is a blend of emotional adjustment and agreeableness.  If they don’t trust people, they will have more trouble leading in a hybrid environment.

2. The Assertiveness aspect of Extraversion –  the primary facets of this aspect are assertiveness and energy, which drive a person to be proactive.  This relates to all of the CAARE components, as each requires the leader to take initiative to interact with their team members and set them up for success.  

3. Flexibility – People who are dogmatic, lack openness to change, and are overly rigid with their work methods (e.g., perfectionistic) may struggle to configure their team in a way that meets both team and individual needs.   

4. Leadership Structure – This relates most to the ALIGNMENT aspect of the model. Research shows that a moderate degree of structure may be the sweet spot; too much may lead to micromanagement (which is disastrous for hybrid team because it takes away the very thing people want – more freedom).  

5 Leadership Consideration – This relates to CONFIGURATION, RELATIONSHIPS, and EQUITY, as leaders need to engage and involve the team in decisions, actively solicit opinions of all members, and show individualized consideration for their needs. 

Hiring great leaders requires careful evaluation of the job requirements and the individual to determine fit.  Contact us if you’d like to learn how we help organizations do just that.


1Bell, Bradford S. and McAlpine, Kristie L. and Hill, N. Sharon, Leading Virtually (January 2023). Annual Review of Organizational Psychology & Organizational Behavior, Vol. 10, Issue 1, pp. 339-362, 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4337239 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-120920-050115

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