Leadership in virtual teams

Seminar Paper, 2013

38 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of contents


Table of contents

List of figures

List of tables

List of abbreviations

1. Introduction and background
1.1. Objective and demarcation
1.2. Causes of virtual teamwork and team building
1.3. Team vs. group term
1.4. Virtual vs. conventional teams

2. Working in a virtual team
2.1. Challenges and problem areas
2.2. Potential of virtual collaboration
2.3. Team development and life cycle
2.3.1. Problems of the team building process
2.3.2. Phases and tasks of management

3. personnel management
3.1. Definition of leadership with target and expression forms
3.2. Determinants of performance and fields of action
3.3. Leadership theories, leadership styles and leadership tools
3.4. Leadership in virtual teams
3.5. Management by Objectives
3.6. Strategic models of virtual leadership
3.6.1. VIST model according to Hertel
3.6.2. Integrative management model according to Krämer/Deeg
3.6.3. MIPO model according to Köppel

4. Conclusion and outlook



Appendix 1: Leadership definitions



The corporate environment of the 21st century is characterized by increasing globalization, flexibilization, as well as mechanization of work processes and communication channels. The value chains of the companies are internationally networked.

Due to the further development of the Internet and the increased possibilities of modern ICT, distributed, often time-shifted and thematically different forms of work were made possible at a distance.

The processing of projects across different locations, continents and time zones is part of the everyday work of teamwork in many companies. Anyone who leads such a project team, in addition to the classic challenge of leadership, also has to deal in particular with the challenge of distance and virtuality.

In practice, this often leads to problems. Therefore, this work is dedicated to the topic of leadership in the context of virtual teams. Challenges and problem areas are identified and suitable leadership perspectives are presented as a management task for the changed leadership situation.

List of figures

Abb. 1: Zusammenhang zwischen Team, Technik und Organisation (Relationship between team, technology and organisation)

Abb. 2: Teamprozess und Stresspunkt (Team process and stress point)

Abb. 3: Determinanten des Leistungsverhaltens und Handlungsfelder (Determinants of performance behaviour and fields of action)

Abb. 4: Media-Richness-Modell

Abb. 5: Integratives Management-Modell nach Krämer/Degg (Integrative management model according to Krämer/Degg)

Abb. 6: Die Logik des MIPO-Modells (The logic of the MIPO model)

Abb. 7: Führungsinstrumente zur Steigerung der Effektivität virtueller Teams (Management tools to increase the effectiveness of virtual teams)

List of tables

Tabelle 1: Phasen und Aufgaben des Managements virtueller Teams (Phases and tasks of virtual team management)

Tabelle 2: Führungsdefinitionen (Leadership definitions)

List of abbreviations

fig. illustration

A.d.V. Author's note

regarding. concerning

or. respectively

Ibid. ibidem

EPM Electronic Performance Monitoring

et al. at alii

etc. and so on

F. following

ff. continuing

MR Human Resources

i.A. generally

ICT Information and communication technologies

Mbo Management by Objectives

MIPO multicultural input-process output (model)

No. number

etc. among other things

cf. comparisons

VIST Valence-Instrumentality-Self-Efficacy-Team Trust

z.B. For example

1. Introduction and background

More and more people are now working together in virtual teams without having direct personal contact with each other.1 Ubiquitously, it should be noted that virtual forms of organization have become increasingly important in recent years.

Benefiting from the innovations in ICT and the push for globalization and decentralization processes, working across spatial, temporal and organizational boundaries was made possible. Virtual forms of organization emerged in which "work-sharing services between persons, organisational units or whole organisations" were made possible, "which are spread over different places and are connected to each other via communication media". 2

More and more companies are benefiting from this trend, which are now using various forms of cooperation to benefit from cost and competitive advantages. Global cross-company virtual networks, organization-level virtual companies, employee-related virtual teams or workplace-related approaches such as teleworking have emerged.

Along with this, vertical hierarchical management structures are softened and networked with horizontal structures. It is no longer exclusively face-to-face communication and personnel management, but increasingly interactive. This type of special leadership places changed and higher demands on the skills and competencies of employees and managers.3 Practice has shown that, as a result of the specific conditions of virtuality, problems and limitations can often arise.4

The challenge for companies is therefore to make effective use of the potential associated with these developments. Managers have to adapt their leadership to the changed circumstances.

1.1. Objective and demarcation

With this seminar paper, potentials as well as problem areas of virtual teamwork are to be pointed out, as well as aspects of the changed leadership and leadership function are to be analyzed.

The focus of this work is on teamwork in a virtual context that also represents the object of investigation. The solution procedure consists of a literature analysis with two partial aspects. The first part is dedicated to the team, the second to the leadership of such.

In the first theoretical subsection, the causes of virtual teamwork and team building are first discussed and the concept of a team is formed. A distinction to conventional teams takes place.

In a subsequent descriptive subsection, the challenges and problem areas as well as potentials of virtual collaboration in teams are highlighted. Reference is made to the team development and the life cycle in order to then reflect on the problems of the team building process. Phases and tasks of the management are shown and serve for the second theoretical subsection.

This refers to the implication of personnel management and strategic models for the management of virtual teams. Basic objectives and forms of leadership are discussed. Determinants and fields of action of performance are described. A brief overview of the basic leadership theories, leadership styles and leadership tools should enable the changed focus on virtual teams and changed leadership. From this, task-related strategies of leadership are derived, which are then considered as control-theoretical models.

A final conclusion enables a holistic approach to successful leadership in virtual teams and summarizes the most important aspects in order to be able to give opportunities and perspectives for the changed management task.

1.2. Causes of virtual teamwork and team building

Teams can make the hierarchy responsive without weakening it, they can drive processes across the boundaries of an organization, and use a variety of skills to address difficult questions.5 Managers today are unable to overcome the opportunities and challenges ahead if they do not rely on teams more than ever before.6

Information and knowledge have multiplied in recent years, and the tasks and interrelationships have become more complex.7 The performance requirements faced by companies in all industries –.B such as customer service, technological change, competitive threats and environmental constraints – require a level of responsiveness, speed and quality and constant adaptation to customer requirements that exceeds individual performance.8 Today, geographically distributed service providers work together in virtual teams via a network. No longer can the individual possess all the specialist knowledge. Especially for complex and time-critical tasks, a virtual temporary team is often formed.9

1.3. Team vs. group term

If there is an interaction between two or more people, in which each influences the other and is influenced by the other – it is a group.10 If this group pursues a common task, it is called a working group.11 The working methods of such working groups are usually goal-oriented. "The individuals are primarily [...] dependent on the others, on the other hand, the group facilitates the achievement of a number of objectives for its members." 12 "The Group continues to pave the way Path to those goals that require a joint cooperative effort: Common problems promote cooperation to solve problems." 13

From this point of view, the Team term understand: A group becomes a team, "when the contributions of two or more individuals are coordinated for the successful achievement of a common goal or mission." 14 A team is a working group whose members have the will to achieve a common goal.15 They share common values and norms that control their behaviour.16

The terms team and group are often used interchangeably. In the literature, groups are characterized on the basis of the following determining characteristics:17

- Majority of people18
- Common goal, individuals are connected with common norms, values and goals
- Necessity of the possibility of contact over a longer period of time, face-to-face contact is not necessarily mandatory
- Role differentiation, each team member has his or her specific task19
- Shared sense of togetherness20 and togetherness of the members

According to this definition, a team also meets the criteria of a group. The transitions are fluid. However, they differ in terms of task orientation, lower hierarchical levels and the common sense of togetherness. Individual goals and interpersonal conflicts are ideally subordinated to the team goals in the team. The focus is on the common achievement of goals while adhering to common rules of the game. Teams are characterized by a high cohesion21, team spirit and willingness to cooperate, which strengthens the trust of the members. In the team, the individual skills and knowledge of the members complement each other and pursue a precisely defined goal, which does not necessarily have to be the case in a group. Therefore, not every group automatically represents a team.22 In the following, the team term refers to a team according to the standards and characteristics described above.

1.4. Virtual vs. conventional teams

Virtual teamwork can be seen as a further development of conventional face-to-face teamwork. The main distinguishing feature is the limited physical gathering. For the manager, the special feature is that he does not have direct personal access to the individual team members.

If at least one team member works spatially separated from the rest of the team during the collaboration, this corresponds to a virtual team.23 The degree of virtuality can be different.24 A virtual team can already be formed from employees from different departments within a company, but also from experts based around the world.25

Virtual teams are flexible working groups of site-distributed and location-independent employees, which are created on the basis of common goals or work orders in a result-oriented manner and are networked in terms of information technology.26 After fulfilling the tasks, the team members return to their original position.27

2. Working in a virtual team

2.1. Challenges and problem areas

In order to ensure success and performance in a team, three design levels must be aligned with the set goal of virtual teamwork.28 (See Fig.1) It can be seen that team, technology and organization are interdependent and influence each other. Time, cost and quality criteria are as a result important consideration features.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

fig. : Connection between team, technology and organization

[Own presentation based on RKW Kompetenzzentrum, 2011, p. 22.]

Due to the spatial or temporal distance, the members of virtual teams must communicate, interact and establish relationships with each other using special communication technologies.29 In extreme cases, they never meet in person.30 Virtual collaboration therefore has to consider a number of factors that have an impact on the effectiveness of these teams.

Due to the spatial distance, there is always a social distance.31 Due to the reduced personal contact, trust is often lacking, there is uncertainty regarding tasks, roles, responsibilities and priorities, resulting in misunderstandings. Lack of or error-oriented communication therefore had a detrimental effect on the team structure.32 Contributions must be coordinated in such a way that they are made at the right time and in the right place.33 Therefore, the effective use and control via electronic media is only an important aspect of the organization, which includes leadership. In virtual teams, the danger often lies in the fact that the technical aspect is too much in the foreground.34 Especially with intercultural teams, different experiences and expectations, as well as coding errors and stereotypes, are increasingly occurring.35 The understanding of values, norms, perception and actions have a different form.36 In this way, language and culture differences must also be taken into account, for which team members must be prepared.37

In addition, a recent study by ALBRECHT and ALBRECHT-GOEPFERT (2012) on leadership in virtual structures, serious deficits in the support of the organization.38 Accordingly, managers, team leaders and members are often assigned to projects unprepared. According to the survey, just under a third of managers completed communication training in international projects or training in self-management. Two thirds of the managers had not yet received adequate training on intercultural competence and almost 90 percent of the team leaders missed stronger support from the HR function and professional coaching.

In the electronic transmission of information, it is often unclear what value this information has for the other. This results in time-delayed or uncoordinated reactions, which thus complicate coordination.39

With increasing team size, Ringelmann effects can also be promoted, which negatively impairs the performance or effectiveness of the entire team. Likewise, social lazing or free-riding leads to loss of motivation.

2.2. Potential of virtual collaboration

By using modern ICT such as the Internet, cloud applications, e-mails or face-time applications, the potential of flexibility can be harnessed. Communication thus leads to a fast availability of information and thus to time-to-market advantages.40 This also accelerates the work processes and allows the team to react more quickly to changes.

The company is no longer limited to its own employees.41 With regard to professional qualification, the team composition is based on skills and is therefore no longer tied to local availability.42 Companies worldwide can access specialist and expert knowledge at any time across locations.43 This increases knowledge of language, cultural and market experience. This heterogeneity increases the functional and operational strength of the virtual team due to diverse individual competencies.44 Among other things, this can also contribute to coping with demographic change and the associated shortage of skilled workers.

In addition to the time component, there are also cost advantages in a reducible travel activity of the employees.45 There may be more freedom for value-adding activities. This can also benefit employees whose load can theoretically be reduced.

On the other hand, the employer attractiveness can be increased.46 It is possible to work in a home office.

2.3. Team development and life cycle

For the consideration of team development, the literature often refers to the 4-phase model of TUCKMAN (1965), both in conventional and virtual teams.47 Although a whole series of new developments and theories have emerged in recent decades, this model illustrates the fundamental group dynamics and educational processes at the level of the team members and has not lost its topicality. In addition, instructions for the management of teams can be derived according to the development phases, which bring opportunities and risks into consideration. Basically, the following team phases can be represented:48

1. Forming: In this phase, the team is brought together. The team members get to know each other. The atmosphere is characterized by uncertainty, devensive and a careful sounding out of behavioral. Most of the communication channels are through the team leader. This has a protective function. If it does not exist, an informal management structure emerges, which can also have a negative effect on the following phases.
2. Storming: Conflicts and rivalries arise between the individual team members regarding unresolved processes, role, power and status relationships. Groupings and polarizations arise. The position and competence of the team leader is often questioned. Each team member strives for a position of power that is most favourable to himself, usually at the expense of the others. Out of this storming phase, by solving the problem positions, a team with a high degree of maturity often arises.49 This is regarded as the basis for functioning teamwork.
3. Norming: Cohesion develops in the group. Standards and mutual support come into play. Resistance and conflicts are cleaned up and reduced.
4. Preforming: In this phase, interpersonal conflicts are resolved and tasks, processes and roles are defined, joint performance is provided by a strengthened sense of togetherness.

Later, the 5th phase - dissolution of the group - was added. The phases are not necessarily complete and linear. So there are also groups that never successfully go through the first and second phases, and thus work together inefficiently, or even dissolve.50

An extension of the phase model to TUCKMAN (1965) recreation of the team process model LIPNACK and STAMPS (1997) (see Fig.2).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

fig. : Team process and stress point

In this figure, the phases storming and norming are summarized as a start-up phase and supplemented with a test phase. The curve has stress points in the start-up phase and the test phase. These are the two phases in which the team process is often fraught with numerous conflicts.

Therefore, it is therefore important to prepare for the conflict-ridden times in advance – or to counteract them through goal-oriented management. Even at the beginning and the start-up phase, mistrust, different positions or opinions often arise that are not resolved. These conflicts hamper day-to-day management. In this phase, misunderstandings can occur with regard to the degree of goal achievement of the task, which are based on a lack of clarity and leadership. If measures and criteria for a task are not defined in a timely and unambiguous manner, these problems are reflected in the test phase.

2.3.1. Problems of the team building process

Due to the time and cost pressure, the classic team building processes can no longer be fully realized in virtual structures. Common foundations such as trust, a sense of togetherness, knowledge of the responsibility of the team members, commitment to individual tasks or the overall project, which automatically grew in presence teams through daily collaboration, often do not come about in virtual teams.51 In these basics lies the dilemma of virtual team leadership practiced in practice.52

Trust develops over time and the better the team members are known to each other. The problem is that the virtual world is based on an opposite principle. Virtual teams are often formed much faster and assembled and dissolved within a few days.53 As a result, it is more difficult for managers to build trust with increasing virtuality. At the same time, working in a virtual team requires strong trust in team members, who are often only known virtually.54 As a result, team development must be initiated and actively accompanied by the manager.

2.3.2. Phases and tasks of management

KONRADT and HERTEL (2002) among others have structured an adapted management model for virtual teams that is located in the 5-phases of TUCKMAN (1965) and specifies tasks at each stage of life (see Table 1).55

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

table : Phases and tasks of managing virtual teams cf. Konradt/Hertel, 2002, p. 47.]

In the following, the individual phases are briefly outlined for a holistic view:56

- Phase 1: Decision-making on the structural, personnel and procedural requirements
- Phase 2: The virtual team starts work. Regulations are discussed.
- Phase 3: Maintenance and regulation of cooperation, focus is on promoting motivation, trust, communication.
- phase 4: Optimization and correction, focus is on process development tasks, further education, social integration, commitment.
- Phase 5: Assessment, reintegration or reorientation of employees with regard to new (virtual) projects.

From this, it is possible to derive the accompanying steps necessary for the educational process in the initial phase. after LIPNACK and STAMPS (2000) these are:57

- Formation of a common identity. Developing a virtual community can help minimize the feeling of isolation and lack of motivation.58 Cultural differences must be taken into account.59
- Clearly formulate the purpose of the team at an early stage, e.B. concrete objectives and vision
- Definition of milestones and a binding time frame that offers the team a perspective
- Clarifying roles, distribution of tasks and responsibilities
- Building and shaping relationships, arranging the functions and communication channels
- Select and set communication media. The avoidance of linguistic uncertainties and ambiguities must also be taken into account.60

In the following, for reasons of readability, the different gender forms are dispensed with.

When we talk about employees, etc., we always mean women as well as men.


1 cf. ComTeam study, 2012, p. 7: Up to one third of all employees work in virtual teams.

2 cf. Konradt/Köppel, 2008, p. 10.

3 cf. Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 44ff.; cf. ComTeam study, 2012, p. 3;

4 cf. Konradt/Köppel , 2008, p. 11ff.

5 cf. Katzenbach/Smith, 2003, p. 38.

6 (Cf., ibid., p.77)

7 See also study: Mastering Complexity, 2012.

8 cf. Katzenbach/Smith, 2003, p. 18.

9 cf. Schreyögg, 1999, p. 190; cf. Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 48.

10 cf. Zimbardo/Gerrig, 2000, p. 723.

11 cf.Teufel et al., 1995, p. 10.

12 Mann, 1999, p. 50.

13 Mann, 1999, p. 50.

14 cf. Zimbardo/Gerrig, 2000, p. 723.

15 cf. Teufel et al., 1995, p. 10.

16 cf. Rosenstiel, 2003, p. 274.

17 Cf. ibid.; cf. Mayrhofer, 2003, p. 212.

18 A.d.V: The size of the team may have an impact on effectiveness or motivation, cf. ROBBINS (1995) , "Sucker effect" cf. KARAU/WILLIAMS (1993), "social loafing" cf. ISAAC/WALKER/THOMAS (1984) "free ridings".

19 Cf. in detail team roles after BELBIN (1993).

20 Cf. in detail BORN/EISELIN, 1996, p. 17; GREIF 1996c, p. 164.

21 A.d.V.: AIELLO/KOLB (1995) have shown in a study that a high degree of cohesion stress-reducing effects.

22 cf. Kriz/Nöbauer, 2008, p. 26.

23 cf. Haywood, 1998, p. 3.

24 cf. Krämer/Degg, 2008, p. 170.

25 cf. Kriz/Nöbauer, 2008, p. 29.

26 cf. Konradt/Hertel, 2002, p. 18.

27 For an overview of the installation period of virtual teams, see: Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 48.

28 cf. RKW Competence Center, 2011.

29 cf. Kriz/Nöbauer, 2008, p. 29.

30 Cf. ibid.; cf. Lipnack/Stamps, 1998, p. 31.

31 cf. Remdisch/Utsch, 2006, p. 38.

32 cf. ComTeam Study, 2012, p. 8; See study: Remdisch/Utsch, 2006, p. 36.

33 cf. Köppel, 2007, p. 9.

34 cf. Kriz/Nöbauer, 2008, p. 31.

35 cf. Köppel, 2010, p. 149.

36 cf. Thomas, 2003, p. 535.

37 Cf. ibid. p. 14

38 cf. Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 46f.

39 cf. Schreyögg, 2009, p. 147.

40 cf. Orlikowski, 2002, p. 17.

41 cf. Konradt/Köppel, 2008, p. 14.

42 cf. Konradt/Hertel 2002, p. 30ff.

43 cf. Konradt/Hertel, 2007, p. 30.

44 cf. Konradt/Hertel 2002, p. 57.

45 cf. Orlikowski, 2002, p. 16.

46 cf. ComTeam Study, 2012, p. 8.

47 See also Group development according to BASS (1995).

48 cf. Tuckman, 1965, p. 384ff.

49 cf. Kriz/Nöbauer, 2008, p. 61.

50 cf. Staehle, 1999 S.299ff.

51 cf. Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 46.

52 cf. Distance Leadership, 2005.

53 cf. Albrecht/Albrecht-Goepfert, 2012, p. 48.

54 cf. Distance Leadership, 2005.

55 cf. Konradt/Hertel, 2002, p. 47ff.

56 (Cf., ibid., p.77)

57 cf. Lipnack/Stamps, 2000, p. 214ff.

58 cf. Lee, 2009, p. 460.

59 cf. Konradt/Hertel, 2002, p. 58.

60 (Cf., ibid., p.77)

Excerpt out of 38 pages


Leadership in virtual teams
Donau-Universität Krems  (Fakultät für Wirtschaft und Globalisierung)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Quote paper
MSc Christoph Skowronek (Author), 2013, Leadership in virtual teams, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1169402


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Leadership in virtual teams

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free