Collaborating With ‘Virtual Strangers’: Towards Developing a Framework for Leadership in Distributed Teams

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Leadership Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The current study qualitatively explores emergent leadership themes within distributed teams in a large international Fortune 500 organization. Sixteen employees across different organizational sites were interviewed about experiences in both collocated and distributed teams. Previous research has typically highlighted how these teams fall on a continuum of virtuality, from purely face-to-face to entirely distributed, as well as emphasizing the importance of distributed team leaders using technology to create a virtual presence along this continuum. In addition, extant research emphasizes that leadership functions may need to vary depending on the geographic and temporal dispersion of the team. Consistent with traditional leadership theories, our findings suggest that distributed team leaders play an important role both in structuring group tasks and supporting socio-emotional group processes, and these functions vary by team distribution level. The idea that distributed teams are particularly conducive to more non-traditional forms of leadership also appeared as a consistent theme.

Rights Information

© 2011 Sage Publishing