Project Management Institute

Enabling shared leadership in virtual project teams

a practitioners' guide

Many virtual project teams perform better when leadership is shared (rather than centralized with the formal team leader); however, team leaders are often neither prepared to identify shared leadership potential nor to actually share leadership responsibility. Based on a study of 96 globally dispersed software development teams we show that team leaders tend to underestimate the team members' capacity to lead themselves. As a consequence, these leaders monopolize decision-making authority and provide insufficient levels of autonomy for team members to tackle their tasks. Preventing the team members from unfolding their true potential, these leaders unconsciously jeopardize virtual team performance. Paradoxically, it is thus team leaders themselves hindering leadership effectiveness in virtual teams.
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