The Power of Empathy and Emotional Intelligence in Leading an International Sales Team in a virtual setting

Written by

Anh N. Tran

Managing Director at simpleshow

Managing Director at simpleshow

“No creature can fly with just one wing. Gifted leadership occurs where heart and head—feeling and thought—meet. These are the two wings that allow a leader to soar.” (Goleman, 2002)

In a dynamic and interconnected world of international sales, effective leadership goes beyond simply driving revenue growth. It entails understanding and navigating the complexities of cultural diversity, fostering strong collaboration and inspiring a team that is mainly working remotely. These factors are especially important in a virtual environment, in which social cues are not visible, trust has to be established (Flavian, Guinaliu and Jordan, 2019), language skill levels are different and still, as social creators our human brain react differently and connect different in a digital setting (Jordan, 2020).
In this article, we dive into the invaluable role of empathy and emotional intelligence in leading an international sales team, highlighting their profound impact on success.

1. Building Bridges Across Cultures: 

In a global sales environment, cultural diversity is the norm rather than the exception. Leaders who embrace empathy and emotional intelligence are better equipped to bridge cultural gaps and foster genuine connections with team members from diverse backgrounds. By understanding and appreciating cultural nuances in the new geographical reality (Paiuc, 2021), leaders can adapt their communication styles, gestures, and behaviors, effectively breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of inclusivity.

2. Developing Trust and Rapport: Trust is one of the key challenge and factor for successful leadership in virtual setting (Abbu, Mugge and Gudergan, 2022) Leaders who demonstrate a genuine understanding of their team members’ emotions, perspectives, and challenges are more likely to establish trust, fostering an environment where individuals feel safe to express themselves. This emotional connection boosts team morale, enhances collaboration, and paves the way for open and honest communication.

3. Enhancing Conflict Resolution: In a multicultural sales team, conflicts may arise due to varying viewpoints, communication styles, or expectations (Davidaviciene and Al Majoub, 2022). It is one of the challenges to navigate these conflicts with sensitivity and compassion. By actively listening, acknowledging emotions, and seeking win-win solutions, leaders can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth and innovation, fostering a harmonious and productive team environment.

4. Motivation and Engagement: Sales can be a challenging field, and international sales teams face unique pressures which sometimes result in different emotional reactions. Leaders who recognize and respond to their team members’ emotional needs will help the team members to feel seen and heard by scheduling individual coaching sessions, best practice sharing, trainings that improve specific gaps in the sales cycle. By genuinely caring about their team’s well-being, offering support, and celebrating successes, leaders foster a positive work environment that drives individual and collective performance.

5. Cultivating Resilience and Adaptability: Leading an international sales team requires adaptability and resilience in the face of ever-changing market dynamics and cultural landscapes. Empathy and emotional intelligence enable leaders to understand and navigate these challenges effectively. By empathetically considering the diverse perspectives of team members, leaders can foster a culture of resilience, enabling the team to embrace change, learn from setbacks, and capitalize on new opportunities.

However, meeting all the demands and requirements in a stressful workday can be unrealistic for a leader in sales and in general alone (Schweimler, 2022). In such situations, it is important for individual team members to be open-minded, mindful and willing to assist and support one another. The fact that one person is in a leadership position does not mean they should bear the entire burden of responsibility of the entire goal and result alone. By embracing a collaborative mindset, sales team members can pool their strengths, skills, and knowledge to effectively tackle the tasks at hand.

Individual team members should take initiative and proactively offer their support, whether it’s helping with workload distribution, mentor new joiners as well as compensate weaknesses of another team member, sharing knowledge and experiences gathered in the sales process, sharing insights and trends in their regional sales territory or providing assistance in areas where they excel. This collective effort helps to alleviate the stress and burden faced by any one person. It fosters a sense of unity within the team, promoting a culture of mutual support and collaboration.

Furthermore, team members should be receptive to communication and open to sharing their own challenges and limitations. By being honest and transparent about their capabilities and constraints, they enable others to understand their needs and offer appropriate assistance. Effective communication allows team members to coordinate efforts and optimize their collective productivity.

Ultimately, teamwork flourishes when everyone acknowledges their shared responsibility for the team’s success. It is not solely the responsibility of the leader to bear the weight of the demands and requirements. Each team member plays a significant role in contributing to a positive and productive work environment.

Reference List:

Abbu, H., Mugge, P. and Gudergan, G. (2022) “Successful Digital Leadership Requires Building Trust,” Research Technology Management, 65(5), p. 29. doi: 10.1080/08956308.2022.2095168.

Davidaviciene, V. and Al Majzoub, K. (2022) “The Effect of Cultural Intelligence, Conflict, and Transformational Leadership on Decision-Making Processes in Virtual Teams,” Social Sciences, 11(64), pp. 1–16.

Flavian, C., Guinalíu, M. and Jordan, P. (2019) “Antecedents and consequences of trust on a virtual team leader,” European Journal of Management and Business Economics, 28(1), pp. 2–24.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E. and McKee, A. (2002) Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.

Jordan, J. (2020) “Leading virtual teams 2.0,” 15 May. Available at:

Paiuc, D. (2021) “The Impact of Cultural Intelligence on Multinational Leadership: A Semantic Review,” Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 9(1), pp. 81–93. doi: 10.2478/mdke-2021-0006.

Schweimler, Z. A. (2022) “Leadership Job Requirements in Multicultural Virtual Teams: Which Behaviour and Skills Do Leaders Need to Manage Multicultural Virtual Teams Successfully? A Review,” GiLE Journal of Skills Development, 2(2), pp. 12–26.

Anh N. Tran

Managing Director at simpleshow
Managing Director at simpleshow

Anh lives in Germany and currently, she is pursuing her DBA research program at Westford University College/UCAM, focusing on the field of leadership. Alongside her studies, Anh works for a software explainer video company, where she is responsible for the APAC region. With over 10 years of experience in the IT industry, Anh’s expertise covers various domains, including business development, product management, sales, and operations. Her educational background includes a Master’s degree in International Communication from City University of London, as well as Bachelor’s degrees from Northumbria University and Cologne University of Applied Sciences.