Perceived Behaviors of Emergent and Assigned Leaders in Virtual Groups

Perceived Behaviors of Emergent and Assigned Leaders in Virtual Groups

Kathryn R. Wickham (LiveOps, Inc., USA) and Joseph B. Walther (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-955-7.ch070
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While considerable research has explored perceptions of groups and members in computer-mediated communication (CMC), and leadership behaviors in face-to-face groups, little research has examined how leadership is identified in CMC groups. Contemporary CMC theories alternatively stress the impact of salient, stereotyped roles on CMC groups’ perceptions, or the accretion of exaggerated impressions based on behavioral cues. These perspectives, in turn, coincide with predictions about the predominance of alternative forms of leadership: Assigned versus emergent. This study draws on traditional leadership theories from face-to-face group research and applies them to CMC to examine dynamics related to assigned and emergent leaders in online groups. The results of the study demonstrate that CMC groups may identify more than one leader. When identifying emergent leaders, regardless of whether a leader was assigned or not, group members consider perceived amounts of communication, intelligence, and encouraging and authoritarian behaviors.

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