Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 18 Number 3 2001 pp. 7-40

Leadership Effectiveness in Global Virtual Teams

Kayworth, Timothy R and Leidner, Dorothy E

ABSTRACT: The trend toward physically dispersed work groups has necessitated a fresh inquiry into the role and nature of team leadership in virtual settings. To accomplish this, we assembled thirteen culturally diverse global teams from locations in Europe, Mexico, and the United States, assigning each team a project leader and task to complete. The findings suggest that effective team leaders demonstrate the capability to deal with paradox and contradiction by performing multiple leadership roles simultaneously (behavioral complexity). Specifically, we discovered that highly effective virtual team leaders act in a mentoring role and exhibit a high degree of understanding (empathy) toward other team members. At the same time, effective leaders are also able to assert their authority without being perceived as overbearing or inflexible. Finally, effective leaders are 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.

Key words and phrases: collaboration technology, computer-mediated communication systems, computer-supported cooperative work, global virtual teams, virtual teams