Leadership Dynamics in Partially Distributed Teams: an Exploratory Study of the Effects of Configuration and Distance

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Abstract

Despite the importance of leadership and the wealth of empirical studies focused on leadership effectiveness in traditional and computer-supported groups, there is little research examining leadership dynamics in partially distributed virtual teams (PDTs). Virtual teams are partially distributed when they are configured with one or more subgroups of collocated members and isolated members. This paper lays the groundwork for an in-depth study of leadership in PDTs that can be extended to other types of virtual team configurations. Using three dimensions of virtual distance (geographic, cultural and temporal), we analyze how the configuration of virtual teams interacts with leadership dynamics. We also summarize the results of an exploratory study using 12 student teams to examine the effects of distance and configuration on leadership in PDTs. Findings show significant differences in leadership dynamics (i.e., leader emergence vs. leader retention) which impacted team performance. From these results, we develop propositions on leadership and PDTs.

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Correspondence to Rosalie J. Ocker.

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Ocker, R.J., Huang, H., Benbunan-Fich, R. et al. Leadership Dynamics in Partially Distributed Teams: an Exploratory Study of the Effects of Configuration and Distance. Group Decis Negot 20, 273–292 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10726-009-9180-z

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Keywords

  • Leadership
  • Partially distributed virtual team
  • Geographic distance
  • Cultural distance
  • Temporal distance