The COVID-19 pandemic caused education systems to embrace remote schooling and online learning. In the context of this dramatic change, the principal’s role has also changed. Instead of interacting face to face, school leaders had to become distant leaders operating digitally. The field has no knowledge of digital instructional leadership. The study used new and adapted measures to explore principals’ digital instructional leadership, its mechanisms of operation, and its outcomes. In particular, the research examined how digital instructional leadership affects perceived student learning in online settings through teachers’ intrinsic motivation for digital instruction (i.e. the mediator). The study used data from 380 teachers in Bahrain. Results indicated support for mediation. This is an empirical exploratory study, and therefore it is limited in scope. Nevertheless, its concepts, measures, and findings offer valuable contributions to research and practice. The limitations, findings, and implications of the study are discussed. The significance of the study derives from the growing incorporation of hybrid schooling in education and digital instructional leadership practices in mainstream principalship.