Susanne Nickel/Gunhard Keil

“Virtual leadership is leadership – only different!” say author Susanne Nickel and her co-author Gunhard Keil in the pocket guide “Leading at a Distance”, in which they explain in concrete terms what is essential in leading at a distance and which factors are necessary for this. 

The book’s author, Susanne Nickel, is an expert in change management and innovative leadership and works as a principal at Kienbaum in management development. She advises companies on new leadership on the way to more agility. Her co-author, Gunhard Keil, is an expert on all digitalisation topics.

Globalisation and digitalisation are already a regular part of many people’s working lives and have been further reinforced by the pandemic. The home office is no longer a particular facility in many companies today but the new normality. Due to this development, managers have been and are increasingly faced with new challenges and have to deal with the following issues:

  • Does the old understanding of leadership still fit?
  • What do employees need to be motivated and able to work online?
  • How do you keep in touch with your employees?
  • Which technical hurdles have to be overcome?
  • How does delegation work in a virtual context?

In their small book, the two authors answer these questions and offer a comprehensive overview of modern leadership methods and their applications. 

The topic of leadership is examined from the ground up from the perspective of distance and brought to the point clearly and without much rambling. The reader can look forward to the following contents, which illuminate various topics of leadership:

  • Managing and leading – the key factors
  • Trust as a necessary substructure (foundation)
  • Virtual leadership: goals, meetings, feedback, delegation, staff development, conflicts
  • Virtual collaboration: onboarding, team building, identification, networked working, agile methods, successes
  • Technology and tools in the virtual context

The authors manage to get to the heart of the matter in this small booklet and present leadership-relevant topics practically. The work is provided with numerous models, such as the Nickel& Keil model, which offers a good orientation aid, and clear illustrations. 

The Nickel&Keil model consists of 5 elements:

The Mind Set

The mindset of the leader is reflected in all areas of leadership because the inner attitude and mindset influence all decision-making processes and behaviours. 

The Skill Set

Classic leadership skills include personal skills, such as dealing with stress and strain, and social skills, such as motivating employees, communicating and knowing what to do in conflict situations. In addition, there are methodological skills such as defining goals and being able to delegate tasks. 

The Tool Set

Especially in virtual leadership, handling the technical tool set is also a critical success factor.

The culture

The basis for modern leadership is a culture that focuses on development and trust instead of judgement and control. The graphic symbolises this through the red ribbon around the circles.


Leadership consists of three letters – DO! – Without implementation, there are no results.

Leading at a Distance is a pocket guide perfectly suited to the present time and will undoubtedly provide added value to all managers, regardless of their leadership experience to date. The simple and straightforward language style makes reading fun!

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