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Leadership effectiveness in global virtual teams

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Given the fundamentally different work contexts faced in virtual team environments, traditional concepts of team leadership may take on an entirely new dimension for this new type of organizational structure. This field-based research study was undertaken to identify factors related to effective team leadership in virtual team environments. To accomplish this, we assembled twelve culturally diverse global teams from locations in Mexico, the United States and Europe, assigning each team a project leader and task to complete. The findings suggest that effective team leaders demonstrated the capability to deal with with paradox and contradiction by performing multiple leadership roles simultaneously (behavioral complexity). Specifically, we discovered that highly effective virtual team leaders acted in a mentoring role and exhibited a high degree of understanding (empathy) towards other team members. At the same time, effective leaders were also able to assert their authority without being perceived as overbearing or inflexibile. Finally, effective leaders were found to be extremely effective at providing regular, detailed, and prompt communication with their peers and in articulating role relationships ( responsibilities) among the virtual team members. This study provides useful insights for managers interested in developing global virtual teams as well as for academics interested in pursuing virtual team research.

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