Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 1 2019 pp. 321-350

Effective Coordination of Shared Leadership in Global Virtual Teams

Nordb├Ąck, Emma S and Espinosa, J Alberto


In this study we investigate how shared leadership is coordinated in global virtual teams and how it relates to team effectiveness. Based on 71 interviews with team members and leaders from eight teams from two global software development companies, we found that shared leadership had a more positive effect on team effectiveness when shared leadership was coordinated both implicitly and behaviorally. Implicit leadership coordination is about members sharing same perceptions or cognitive schemas regarding who has leadership over what, and influences whether leadership actions are acted upon. With a mix of national cultures in the team, members are less likely to share the same leadership expectations, which may make shared leadership less effective. In turn, behavioral leadership coordination is associated with the explicit actions aimed at coordinating the leadership activities taking place in the team. This behavioral coordination increases in importance with a higher degree of shared leadership. Our findings contribute to theory and practice by showing that when leadership is highly shared in the team and uncoordinated, it may actually lead to detrimental effects in terms of lower team effectiveness. In contrast, shared leadership may reap its potential benefits if it is well coordinated.

Key words and phrases: global virtual teams, team leadership, team effectiveness, shared leadership, online leadership