Chapter Four. Myths and Realities of Leading Virtual Teams

This is the age of the virtual team leader. It seems at times that it is actually rare to lead a team that is located all in one place. Sometimes a reorganization propels someone into the leadership of a virtual work team, service, or production team. When organizations merge or form alliances, partnerships, or joint ventures, especially internationally, it is not uncommon for people who have been leading functional areas to find that they are virtual team leaders or on virtual management teams. These days, team members who work in different buildings across a city or large campus might work virtually.

Very quickly, most virtual team leaders discover that leading a virtual team requires a special set of skills. Although many traditional leadership principles apply to virtual teams, virtual team leaders experience unique challenges. First, they have to rely on electronic communication technology to send and receive information. As a result, they need to modify the ways in which they provide feedback and gather data. In most instances, the team leader cannot walk down the hall to ask a question, work out an issue over lunch, or call the team together for a meeting in the conference room. Some virtual teams struggle to find a common language. If the team is located across time zones, the team leader must be available in all time zones while balancing heavy work demands with home life. An audioconference at 6:30 A.M. in the United ...

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