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An exploration of effective leadership practice in virtual teams

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014. / ENGLISH ABSTRACT: As organisations expand internationally and continue to conduct business across different time
zones and geographical boundaries, distributed project and organisational teams have become
increasingly prevalent. Rather than meet face-to-face, developments in information and
communication technology have made it possible for these team members to interact electronically
thereby creating an alternative means for team member collaboration. Teams that collaborate in
this manner are called virtual teams.
This study explored effective leadership practice in virtual teams. The process of exploration
started with discovering those core competencies considered essential to virtual team leadership.
These competencies were then operationalised and tested for their respective contributions to
effectiveness in virtual teams as measured by team performance and personal satisfaction. It was
suggested and subsequently confirmed by the results of this study that as virtual team leaders
begin to display essential leadership competencies, the virtual teams they lead become more
Four leadership competencies were identified as integral to effective leadership practice. These
were: an ability to coordinate task delivery, an ability to communicate, an ability to build trust and
an ability to manage multicultural diversity. In addition, it was determined that virtual team leaders
tended to emphasise the more transactional forms of leadership over the more transformational
forms with the strongest emphasis on task and communication as predictors of performance rather
than satisfaction. In contrast, team members emphasised the more transformational forms of
leadership with the strongest emphasis on trust and diversity management as predictors of
satisfaction rather than performance. It was also apparent that for team members, task
coordination was weakly correlated with performance.
These differing results illustrate a distinction in leadership emphasis, which if misunderstood or
incorrectly managed, could lead to conflict and low levels of team trust. For team leaders, a desire
to perform and deliver against team objectives has an associated risk of inadvertently emphasising
task at the expense of fostering healthy team relationships. By comparison, team members
emphasise personal satisfaction over performance and are potentially at odds with a strongly taskorientated
team leader. This does not mean that team members are disinterested in team
performance. On the contrary, performance is important to team members but it would seem that
performance follows as a result of first experiencing satisfaction as a virtual team participant.
Date12 1900
CreatorsMarshall, Steven John
ContributorsSerfontein, J. J., Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. Graduate School of Business.
PublisherStellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish
Formatxi, 126 p.
RightsStellenbosch University

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