E-Leadership and Trust Management: Exploring the Moderating Effects of Team Virtuality

E-Leadership and Trust Management: Exploring the Moderating Effects of Team Virtuality

Nabila Jawadi (IPAG Business School, Paris, France)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/jthi.2013070102
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Trust is considered a key factor in virtual team performance and outcomes. Recent studies suggest that e-leaders significantly contribute to trust development in their teams and that their contributions depend on the team’s level of virtuality. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the behaviors and practices that enable e-leaders to build trusty relationships in their teams. Using leadership behavioral complexity theory, we focus on the roles played by e-leaders in managing their teams. To this end, we conducted a large survey with virtual team members. The results highlight the importance of the roles of rational goals and human relations in trust management. With regard to the effects of virtuality, distance is found to have a significant negative moderator effect on the contribution of leadership to trust development, while the moderator effect of ICT use is positive.
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Trust in virtual environments has become an increasingly important and acknowledged topic in both computer-supported cooperative work and in e-business research. In virtual collaboration, trust is identified as a key factor in successful interactions and is associated with cooperative behaviors, coordination and high virtual team performance (Bidault & Castello, 2009; Jarvenpaa et al., 1998; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Kanawattanachaï & Yoo, 2002; Liu et al., 2011). However, the specific characteristics of the virtual context inhibit its establishment and development. This is due to virtual team members’ reliance on computer-mediated-communication (CMC) that eliminates the face-to-face interactions, physical proximity, verbal cues and facial expressions which contribute to interpersonal relationship development (Brown et al., 2004; Greenberg et al., 2007; Handy, 1995; Mockaitis et al., 2009; Townsend et al., 1998). This is why most studies consider the virtual context to be a barrier to trust building, and consequently attempt to improve the situation by identifying factors that can facilitate trust management in virtual teams.

Current literature on the topic shows that leadership plays an important role in fostering trusting relations between remote members. Many studies have revealed that effective leaders develop high levels of trust, which in turn results in enhanced team performance (Jarvenpaa et al., 1998; Kayworth & Leidner, 2001/2002). Yet, less is known about how e-leaders build and develop trust in virtual teams, or the mechanisms that help them to do so. Previous studies have identified strategies and determinants for establishing trust, without specifying the leaders’ contribution to these strategies, despite their role in dealing with the challenges virtual teams face. The effects of team virtuality on relationship building are also understudied, even though they result in different mechanisms and processes. Indeed, varying levels of virtuality generate varying communication needs and behaviors as well as varying trust management practices (Casey, 2010; Furomo & Pearson, 2006; Muethel et al., 2012; Robert et al., 2009).

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