Global teams place new demand on leadership

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

In a globalised economy dominated by global companies, making global virtual teams work has become a key challenge of leadership, new research has shown.

Research by Monash University’s Associate Professor Audra Mockaitis, from the Department of Management, shows the role of leading global teams has become more diverse putting pressure and demand on the development of effective global leaders.

Associate Professor Mockaitis and colleagues conducted research on hundreds of global virtual teams (GVTs) over a five-year period and concluded that virtual team leaders need to have special knowledge or qualities and display certain traits or behaviours to be effective.

“Leadership preferences differ across countries and cultures, leaving global team leaders with interpersonal challenges and opportunities to be negotiated and leveraged, while adapting to and learning from fast-paced electronic advancements,” Associate Professor Mockaitis said.

“GVT leaders must therefore possess excellent communication skills and must be especially effective in synchronous and face-to-face communication since there are often limited opportunities for such interaction.

“GVT leaders should also be technologically savvy and possess an ability to match the technology to the specific requirements of the team and its tasks. They must be engaging, culturally sensitive and approachable and communicate frequently with all members.”

Three themes for global team leadership emerged from the study, which aimed to add to knowledge of leading global teams, highlight recent trends and provide scope for future research.

Associate Professor Mockaitis and her colleagues proposed that global team leaders must be people-oriented and leverage diversity.

“A more nuanced understanding of team leaders’ and members’ differing expectations, together with a cultural awareness of differences in leadership preferences across countries, will strengthen team leaders’ ability to overcome the power paradox,” Associate Professor Mockaitis said.

“Effective global leaders are aware of these differences and act as cultural brokers or bridge makers, in connecting dispersed people and resources.

“Effective global leaders are also able to blend individual and group expectations. The use of different leadership modes, such as paired, rotated or shared leadership, rather than just resorting to the standard single team leader option, could be applied strategically, not just to manage cultural differences, but to actually leverage them.”