Effective Leadership in Global Virtual Teams

Executive Summary

With the advent of globalization and advancement in information and communication technology, multinational corporations have been able to do business in different parts of the globe. This has seen the emergence of what are referred to as global virtual teams. These teams are composed of people who work for the same organization but in different countries with different cultural backgrounds and time zones. The members of global virtual teams rarely meet face to face but interact more frequently using various communications channels such as email, skype, short messaging, or video conferencing. For the team leader of such a team to make it more effective, he or she has to have a good understanding of the concepts of effective leadership, effective decision making, self-managing teams, cultural diversity, time differences, managing a culturally diverse workforce, and managing global virtual teams. The team leader must also do a careful selection of the team members with a view of having those with excellent interpersonal skills. This ensures that the team does not stagnate due to poor communication between the team members.

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This paper is based on the topic of global virtual teams. In the paper, I will highlight the leadership steps which I can take to ensure that the company which I work for has effective virtual teams. Some of the steps include the understanding of the concept of leadership, understanding of cultural diversity and how to build and manage a culturally diverse workforce as well as how to manage virtual teams from various cultural backgrounds. At the end of the discussion is a conclusion on what can be learned from the discussion.


The Concept of Leadership

Leadership can be defined as the ability of a person to influence other people to do things that they would not have done without the influence. People with this ability are referred to as leaders. Leaders are found in various institutions such as the family, the school, governments, and organizations (formal and non-formal, profit, and nonprofit organizations).

In an organizational setting, leaders are responsible for showing others the way. The leaders may have or may not have executive powers in their organization and they may be or, may not be managers (Northouse 45). Leading in an organizational context entails the leader consolidating the efforts and resources of the organization and focusing on the future by setting up a vision for the organization which it intends to achieve in a given period using the consolidated efforts and resources.

As the leader in charge of training and developing effective global virtual team members, I would use the transformational leadership style which involves various aspects, one of them being charisma. Charisma involves among other things cultivating motivation, morale, and performance of virtual teams through a variety of mechanisms.

Transformational leadership, through the charismatic aspect, helps in realizing positive change. This is because charismatic leaders are energetic, enthusiastic, inspiring, motivational, and passionate about their organizations’ success and development (Ojo, 2008).

Charismatic leadership has got multiple routes to innovations in organizations. The first one is that it leads to establishment of teams which work together. These teams give themselves a social identity which bonds them (Ashforth and Mael, 1989.pp.20-39). This social identity and bonding leads to cooperation among the team members in all aspects, which leads to multiplicity of ideas about how to undertake the tasks consequently leading to innovation within the team (Avolio and Bhatia, 2004. pp.951-968).

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Charismatic leadership may directly lead to innovation because the charismatic leaders are knowledgeable and possess high technical know-how especially in research and development. This knowledge and technical know-how by the charismatic leaders when coupled with other charismatic characteristics directly provokes employees’ thinking on how to improve the functions, processes, and procedures of their organization, thus leading to innovation (Avolio and Bhatia, 2004. pp.951-968).

Effective Leadership

This is the ability of a leader to consolidate, maximize, and utilize the available resources both in the internal and external environment of an organization to attain the objectives of the organization or society. Effective leadership, therefore, aims at realizing results that are extraordinary in a consultative manner and with minimum utilization of resources.

Effective Decision Making

This is the ability of a leader to make decisions that are sound, consultative, inclusive, and timely. Effective decisions have impacted both in the short term and long term and are also highly acceptable by the majority of the stakeholders and those affected by the decisions.For a leader to make effective decisions, he or she must do a cost-benefit analysis, consider the effects of the decision on the organization and who should be included in the decision making, and who should not be included.

Self-Managing Teams

These are also referred to as self-directed teams. A self-managing team is a group of people who coordinate, oversee, and manage the work they do on a day to day basis. They collectively handle assignments; make decisions related to the production of the organization, as well as make decisions regarding their work plans or schedules and how to approach problems or challenges which face them in their operations.

Cultural Diversity

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The term cultural diversity may refer to a variety of human cultures or groups of people who live in different parts of the world. It can also refer to the static representation of several cultures in a place and at a particular time, which must be interacting in carefully selected patterns. Cultural diversity is characterized by the minimization of differences and inequalities as possible and the maximization of sameness and equality as much as possible. Due to globalization, today’s society is becoming more culturally diverse day by day, meaning that we are moving towards sameness each day and moving away from differences as days move on (Chrysanthopoulos, 2010).

How to Manage a Culturally Diverse Workforce

One of the strategies which can be used to manage a culturally diverse workforce is the creation of awareness of cultural diversity within the workforce. This makes the employees embrace diversity and see it as a strength rather than a weakness for the organization which in turn increases their productivity (Deresky, 2002)

The other strategy is to do regular assessments of the environment in which the employees are working in with special attention being given to diversity issues. These assessments should be aimed at identifying any difficulties encountered by employees as they interact with others who have different beliefs, faiths, values, and morals (Dowling and Welch, 2008).

Managers should also make a point of interacting freely with employees from various cultures with a view of learning and understanding those cultures in terms of the similarities and differences. They should in turn see how they can transform the similarities or differences in cultural backgrounds of the employees to benefits the organization or the virtual team without making any section of the workforce feeling marginalized (Holden, 2002).

Another strategy is to send employees on regular training on cultural diversity issues. The management should have in place those programs to ensure that employees are constantly trained on how to relate with other employees from different cultural backgrounds.

Organizations can also consider sending employees to different countries to work as expatriates. This would expose them to various cultures. The employees can also be trained on how to deal with culture shock. This would enhance their efficiency and ability to work in diverse cultures. Above all, managers should have regular meetings with their staff to discuss how best to deal with diverse cultures. During the meetings, each employee should be allowed to air his or her views in regards to the challenges which they face as they deal with employees from different cultures.

Managers should be regularly trained in various cultures of the nations of the world. This should be aimed at equipping them with a general overview of various cultures for various nations to be in a good position to manage a culturally diverse workforce. They should specifically be trained on the five dimensions of cultural differentiation for various countries as studied and documented by the renowned psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede (International business center, n.d).

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Time differences

Global virtual teams are found in various countries across the globe. These countries have different time zones. For example, while it can be day time in a country in Europe, it can be night in an Asian country. These time differences make it hard for the team leader to have the opportunity to meet all the members of the team at the same time either through video conferencing or even phone calls.

As a global virtual team leader, I would take the step of initiating what is called shift overlap, which entails coming too early or staying late in the office to have a phone conversation instead of the usual email or fax conversations which are less lively. This would enhance the team’s spirit and bond it together. I would also set a day of the week or two days when I would be calling all the members of the team to discuss a few issues which are of interest to the team.

How to manage global virtual teams

As a leader, one of the leading steps which I would take is a careful selection of the members of the global virtual team. Selection is very critical because it ensures that the team has members who have good interpersonal skills which are a key ingredient for the success of global virtual teams. The selection of people with poor interpersonal skills may lead to stagnation of the team due to poor communication and interaction among the virtual team members (Gibson, 2003).

After selection, I would organize a meeting for all the team members. During the meeting, the team members will get the opportunity to know each other physically. They will also participate in coming up with modalities of accomplishing tasks in a virtual environment. The meeting would also allow the team members to have a feeling of different cultures and the likes and dislikes of the members of the global virtual team (Gibson, 2003).

As the officer in charge of global virtual teams, I would create profiles for all the members of the virtual team. In the profiles, the employees would include information such as how they can be reached, their photographs, the best time of the day when they can be reached, hobbies, and leisure activities. This would enable the team members to understand each other better and enhance the spirit of togetherness.

The other step I would take is to take the virtual team members on an office tour using a webcam and wireless internet connectivity. This would enable the team members to have a feeling of the office of their leader and thus increase a sense of togetherness. In turn, I would request all the team members to take each other on a virtual office tour in their respective places of work (Gibson, 2003).

Another strategy would be to use more lively modes of communication such as voice messages, or even a brief video containing the information for the team. I would also be sending articles and newsletters in electronic form to all the team members regularly to keep them updated with the latest information about our organization (Gibson, 2003).

Lastly, there is a need to have regular meetings for the members of the team. As a leader, I would ensure that we have meetings during all fifth Fridays, whereby we shall be meeting and celebrating all months which have five Fridays instead of the usual four Fridays.


The paper was about the topic of global virtual teams. In the paper, it has emerged that for the virtual teams to be effective, there is a need for the leaders to come up with some leadership steps to help them accomplish the task. What has come out is that there is a need for the leader to understand the cultural backgrounds of the team members. There is also the need to hold regular meetings for all the team members. Above all, it is important to select team members who have excellent interpersonal skills to avoid stagnation of the team.

Reference List

Ashforth, B.E &, F1989, “Social identity theory and the organization”, The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 20-39.

Avolio, B.J., Zhu, W., Koh, W & Bhatia, P 2004, “Transformational leadership and organizational commitment: mediating role of psychological empowerment and moderating role of structural distance”, Journal of Organizational Behavior,Vol.25 No. 8, pp. 951-968.

Chrysanthopoulos, M 2010, Cultural Diversity and Education, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing, New York, NY.

Deresky, H 2002, International Management. Managing across Borders and Cultures, Prentice Hall, London.

Dowling, P & Welch, D 2008, International Human Resources Management: Managing People in a Multinational Context, 5th edn, Thomas Learning, London.

Gibson, C.B 2003, Virtual teams that work: creating conditions for virtual teameffectivenes, Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.

Holden, N.J 2002, Cross-Cultural Management. A Knowledge Management Perspective, Prentice Hall, London.

International business centre n.d, GeertHofstede Analysis, Viewed 9 July 2013,<http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/hofstede.htm>

Northouse, P.G 2009, Leadership: Theory and Practice, SAGE, New York, NY.

Ojo, A. 2008, Leadership Style and Leadership Power, ProQuest publishers. Farmington Hills, MI.

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