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Leading virtual teams: how do social, cognitive, and behavioral capabilities matter?

Debmalya Mukherjee (Department of Management, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA)
Somnath Lahiri (Department of Management and Quantitative Methods, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)
Deepraj Mukherjee (Department of Business, Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, USA)
Tejinder K. Billing (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 2 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to propose a research framework that identifies crucial leadership capabilities pertaining to the different lifecycle stages of a virtual team (VT). More specifically, the framework seeks to identify and explain the role of social, cognitive, and behavioral capabilities as important determinants of effective VT leadership and success.


This article provides an overview of literature on VT leadership, categorizes leadership capabilities, and relates the capabilities to various stages of VT life‐cycle. A research analysis is undertaken to depict the proposed relationships.


The propositions demonstrate that for effective VT leadership to happen it is important to understand the specific set of capabilities that contributes to successful management of a particular VT stage.

Social implications

VT leaders' application of appropriate capabilities may result in the development of greater levels of tolerance toward cultural, temporal and geographic diversity that exists among VT members and leaders. Such tolerance may actually help improve worker satisfaction, cohesiveness among team members, and promote better work‐life balance – outcomes that are beneficial to society. In addition, more effective and successful VT leadership will lead to better VT performance and organizational success – suggesting positive social impact.


Research relating to VT leadership has been limited. With the usage of VTs predicted to gain more importance in the future there is a greater need to understand how specific leadership capabilities contribute to the successful management and development of VTs. This study fills the void in the extant literature by exploring the specific leadership capabilities and by analyzing their relative influence and relationships with VT lifecycle stages.



Mukherjee, D., Lahiri, S., Mukherjee, D. and Billing, T.K. (2012), "Leading virtual teams: how do social, cognitive, and behavioral capabilities matter?", Management Decision, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 273-290.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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