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Emergent Leadership in Self-Managed Virtual Teams

A Longitudinal Study of Concentrated and Shared Leadership Behaviors

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Abstract

The issue of leadership in virtual teams is an increasingly important one for many modern organizations, because these teams – typically project-based with a finite lifespan and specific deliverables – are frequently self-managed, having no designated leader within the team (Yukl 1998). While such teams may have increased flexibility in setting goals and achieving them, the virtual context may hinder team members' abilities to coordinate activities and influence others (Manz and Sims 1993). Longitudinal data were collected over the course of a semester from virtual teams, comprised of students from three North American universities. Our results suggest that high performing self-managed virtual teams displayed significantly more leadership behaviors over time compared to their low performing counterparts. Specifically, these teams displayed significantly more concentrated leadership behavior focused on performance (i.e. “Producer” behavior) and shared leadership behavior focused on keeping track of group work (i.e. “Monitor” behavior) than the lower performing teams. Interestingly, these behaviors emerged strongly during the first half of the groups' lifespan, and stayed throughout the life of the groups, but steadily dissipated in strength over time.

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Correspondence to Traci A. Carte.

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Carte, T.A., Chidambaram, L. & Becker, A. Emergent Leadership in Self-Managed Virtual Teams. Group Decis Negot 15, 323–343 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10726-006-9045-7

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