University of Twente Student Theses


The effect of leaders' behaviors on virtual project team effectiveness : a qualitative study throughout the team's lifecycle

Groot Zwaaftink, J.M. (2022) The effect of leaders' behaviors on virtual project team effectiveness : a qualitative study throughout the team's lifecycle.

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Abstract:Aim - The increased importance of leaders’ role in guiding virtual project teams has stimulated the call for further exploration on this topic. This study thus investigated the influence of leaders’ task- and relationship-oriented behaviors on team effectiveness throughout a virtual team’s lifecycle, i.e., its welcoming, working and wrapping-up phase. Method - A qualitative, abductive and cross-sectional study was chosen, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with several leaders and followers (N = 15) from different organizations and working in virtual project teams. The data was analyzed through Thematic Analysis and structured according to the Gioia methodology. Findings - This study found that at the start of the project, the leader’s task-oriented behaviors (e.g., planning, clarifying, monitoring and problem-solving behaviors), showed to be the most prominent in regards to team effectiveness, followed by the relation oriented leadership behaviors (e.g., supporting, developing, recognizing and empowering behaviors), in subsequent phases of the team lifecycle. This finding shed new insights on the current literature of virtual teams, suggesting that virtual teams are not only task-oriented, but adopt mixed behaviors and as the lifecycle progresses the dominance of the relation-oriented behaviors becomes clear. Besides, this study found that when major behaviors (e.g., planning, clarifying and supporting behaviors) are not displayed in the early phase of the project team, challenges are more likely to emerge in subsequent phases. Due to the abductive analysis, a novel leadership behavior, involving behavior, emerged which goes beyond the scope of the project and the behavior was observed to have an influence team effectiveness within virtual teams on the current and projects to come. Theoretical implications - This study extended the current knowledge on leadership behaviors and virtual teams by applying the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Leadership Behaviors in combination with the virtual environment to understand how leaders could boost team effectiveness through their behaviors, and connecting these results to the Lifecycle of Virtual Team Management to pinpoint the optimal behaviors throughout the team lifecycle to perform effectively. In addition, this thesis extends the virtual team literature by enriching the classification with a behavior that shows connections with a recent extension of the full-range leadership theory, namely instrumental leadership. Practical implications - Leaders need to become aware of the influence and the effects of their own behaviors on team effectiveness throughout the virtual team’s lifecycle. By showing the different behaviors, at specific moments in time, they could enhance the performance of the team. By doing this accordingly, managers could reduce the emergence of challenges within virtual teams and build a more cohesive and effective team. Moreover, leaders should consider that leading a virtual team requires additional effort, which for example could lead to exhaustion with all its consequences.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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