Effective Leadership of Virtual Teams

Effective Leadership of Virtual Teams

David Tuffley
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch200
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Geographically dispersed project teams collaborating in virtual environments face a range of challenges in the successful completion of IT development projects. This is particularly the case when the project teams are nonhomogenous, comprising multidisciplinary members with a range of skills, professional orientations and cultural backgrounds. Of interest to the global enterprise are those leadership mechanisms and attributes that may serve to optimize team functioning. With an increasing portion of the estimated US$600,000,000,000 (Cusamano, 2004) global software industry being performed by virtual teams, and with the mechanics and dynamics of virtual team operations being a relatively new area of study, the significance of the problem can be firmly established. Virtual teams, and the leadership thereof, is therefore a significant aspect of the global software development industry. Yet as Cusamano (2004) asserts, it is the business itself (and the processes therein), not the technology that determines the success or failure of the organizations that produce the software.
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Main Thrust Of The Article

In spite of pioneering attempts to conceptualize OL, lately, the researchers have expressed concerns. Ritcher (1998) remarks that the current literature does not adequately explore the dynamics of learning process. Nonaka et al. (1995) claim that “There is very little research on how knowledge is actually created and hence there is a need to understand the dynamics of knowledge creation” (italics added).

Alter and Hage (1993) have argued that new theories should be developed to encompass knowledge creation as a result of inter-firm collaboration. Macdonald (1995) claims that the current theories have neglected external-to-firm factors. The aim of OL should be to enhance innovation and not learning merely for the sake of it (Nonaka et al., 1994). D’Aveni (1995) argues that businesses need breakthrough innovations through industry-oriented learning processes and adequately respond to the dynamic external environment.

We now summarize the critical overview of the OL literature presented previously:

  • Absence of external-to-firm factors in OL processes.

  • Unclear conceptualization of optimum distance in teams.


What Is Optimum Distance?

We delve deeper into OL processes by understanding the factors that constitute perceived distance among the team members by defining the relevant concepts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Technologies: Technology that allows people to interact effectively in virtual environments. Includes messaging and discussion forums, audio and video conferencing, knowledge portals, business directories, and Web cams.

Global Enterprise: An emerging phenomena facilitated by communications technology in which multinational organizations extend their operations globally, effectively removing themselves from the control of any one jurisdiction.

Laissez-faire: From the French “allowed to be.” Refers in this context to the management style where employees function best when left alone.

Transformation Leadership: Combining four dimensions; charisma, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, and inspirational motivation.

IPPD: Integrated Product and Process Development (a body of knowledge).

Charisma: The ability to develop or inspire in others an ideological commitment to a particular point of view.

Virtual Team: Group of geographically or organizationally dispersed coworkers that are assembled using a combination of telecommunications and information technologies to accomplish an organizational task.

Transactional Leadership: Combining three dimensions; contingent reward, management-by exception, management-by-exception (passive).

Integrated Team: A group of people with complementary skills who collaborate to deliver specified work products. An integrated team may be either colocated or distributed. Contrast with Virtual Team (below).

Directive Leadership: Providing and seeking compliance with directions for accomplishing a problem solving task.

Empathy: The ability to see the world through another’s eyes, to experience it as they would. An essential leadership quality.

Participative Leadership: The equalization of power and sharing of problem solving with followers by consulting them before making a decision.

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