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‘Turning up the volume’ in inter-personal leadership: motivating and building cohesive global virtual teams during times of economic crisis

Advances in Global Leadership

ISBN: 978-0-85724-467-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-468-0

ISSN: 1535-1203

Publication date: 24 January 2011


Leaders of global virtual teams (GVTs) during the economic crisis of 2008–2009 faced a leadership challenge very different from leadership of traditional, face-to-face teams during normal economic conditions. Previous research has shown that the effect of leadership tends to become diminished in virtual team situations, due to well-known challenges of virtual working (geographic dispersion, computer-mediated communication, time zone, cultural and language differences); however, little empirical research has been undertaken during crisis periods such as experienced in 2008–2009 to evaluate the effect of leadership on team outcomes during times of crisis. We present findings which shed light on the impact of three sets of leadership behaviour, as described by FIRO theory (Schutz, 1958), that is, inclusion (participation), control (structure) and affection (personal support), on virtual team motivation and cohesiveness spanning the time of the recent global economic recession. Beginning in March 2008 spanning one year to March 2009, 221 team members within 31 operational GVTs located across 22 countries responded to a three-part, online survey relating to perceptions of team leader behaviour, team motivation and cohesiveness. Findings showed significant positive relationships between leaders' perceived expression of inclusion and personal support and motivation and cohesiveness outcomes. In addition, perceived team cohesiveness was positively correlated to perceived team motivation. Results suggest the need for virtual leaders to ‘turn up the volume’ in their initiated inter-personal behaviour, that is, to increase efforts in participation and supportiveness to bridge the considerable gaps between themselves and team members working virtually and to maintain motivation during difficult times. Correspondent to these findings, we surmise that leadership development programs need to be adjusted to include training and feedback mechanisms to support these types of GVTs leadership behaviours.


Jenster, N.P. and Steiler, D. (2011), "‘Turning up the volume’ in inter-personal leadership: motivating and building cohesive global virtual teams during times of economic crisis", Mobley, W.H., Li, M. and Wang, Y. (Ed.) Advances in Global Leadership (Advances in Global Leadership, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 267-297.



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