The ability for geographically dispersed teams to interact, engage, and collaborate effectively is a concern for increasing numbers of corporations, teams, and leadership, especially in the post-COVID-19 era workplace. Adoption of technological solutions for computer-mediated communication can mitigate some of the inherent complexities and difficulties of the geographical dispersion problem, and research teams have increased efforts to both understand the problem and design groupware solutions to support virtual team collaboration (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020). Researchers suggest that, along with the physical demands of distance for virtual teams, leaders should consider cognitive, social and emotional concerns at the forefront of the discussion in order to best address the problems and create a positive collaborative environment (Morrison-Smith & Ruiz, 2020).
A key component to success for organizations facing a growing virtual team environment is to train managers and leaders with the skills necessary to lead employees in online, virtual environments (Ford et al., 2017). The key to success in these virtual team environments is trust (Ford et al., 2017; Newman et al., 2020; Zakaria & Yusof, 2020), and the development of theoretical swift trust formation processes have been recent topics of research development (Zakaria & Yusof, 2020). In virtual teams, leaders should emphasize the development of trust with their employees, which helps mitigate psychological and social feelings of isolation that are often present in virtual environments. Researchers recommend that intentional actions be taken to promote trust and relationship building to mitigate the task-oriented behaviors that often are present leading to a different form of trust, namely cognitive-based trust (Zakaria & Yusof, 2020). While this form of trust can help build long-term trust within a team, interpersonal trust is necessary for swift trust formation and the long-term trust that can be fostered (Zakaria & Yusof, 2020).
Finally, researchers emphasize the importance of empowering leadership for virtual teams, defined by the empowering leadership theory (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Hill & Bartol, 2016). Empowering leadership is characterized by leadership behaviors emphasizing shared power between leaders and subordinates. These types of behaviors lead to increased intrinsic motivation in subordinates. Empowering leadership fosters supportive environments for subordinates to have opportunities to leverage the power entrusted to them (Hill & Bartol, 2016). Leadership training in empowering leadership is a viable option to encourage the development of empowering leadership practices in leaders, especially if an organization tends toward virtual or dispersed team environments. Hill & Bartol (2016) suggest that, the more dispersed a team is, the greater the positive impact of successful empowering leadership is.
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Ford, R. C., Piccolo, R. F., & Ford, L. R. (2017). Strategies for building effective virtual teams: Trust is key. Business Horizons, 60(1), 25-34.
Hill, N. S., & Bartol, K. M. (2016). Empowering leadership and effective collaboration in geographically dispersed teams. Personnel psychology, 69(1), 159-198.
Morrison-Smith, S., & Ruiz, J. (2020). Challenges and barriers in virtual teams: a literature review. SN Applied Sciences, 2, 1-33.
Newman, S. A., Ford, R. C., & Marshall, G. W. (2020). Virtual team leader communication: Employee perception and organizational reality. International Journal of Business Communication, 57(4), 452-473.
Zakaria, N., & Yusof, S. A. M. (2020). Crossing cultural boundaries using the internet: Toward building a model of swift trust formation in global virtual teams. Journal of International Management, 26(1), 100654.