Teamwork, team performance, leadership, virtuality, distribution, partial distribution, emergent leadership, virtual teams, distributed teams


The influence of leadership on team success has been noted extensively in research and practice. However, as organizations move to flatter team based structures with workers communicating virtually across space and time, our conceptualization of team leadership must change to meet these new workplace demands. Given this need, the current study aims to begin untangling the effects of distribution and virtuality on team leadership structure and subsequent team outcomes that may be affected by differences in conceptualizing such structures. Specifically, the goals of this study were threefold. First, this study investigated how the physical distribution of members may impact perceptions of team leadership structure, depending on virtual tool type utilized for communicating. Second, this study explored how different indices of team leadership structure may have different influences on team outcomes, specifically in terms of conceptualizing the degree to which multiple members are perceived as collectively enacting particular leadership behaviors via a network density metric, and conceptualizing team leadership in regards to the specialization of members into particular behavioral roles, as captured via role distance and role variety indices. Finally, this study expanded on current research regarding team leadership structure by examining how the collective enactment of particular leadership (i.e., structuring/planning, problem solving, supporting social climate) behaviors may facilitate specific teamwork processes (i.e., transition, action, interpersonal), leading to enhanced team performance, as well as how leadership role specialization may impact overall teamwork and team performance. Findings from a laboratory study of 188 teams participating in a simulated decision making task reveal a significant interaction for the influences of physical distribution and iv virtuality on perceptions of leadership structure, such that less distributed teams (i.e., those with fewer isolated members) were more likely to perceive their distributed members as participating in the collective enactment of necessary leadership responsibilities when communicating via richer media (i.e., videoconferencing, teleconferencing) than less rich media (i.e., instant messaging). However, virtuality and distribution did not impact the degree to which members were perceived as specializing in a particular leadership role, or the overall variety of leadership roles being performed. In terms of team outcomes, the perceived collective enactment of leadership emanating from distributed team members significantly predicted teamwork, while the perceived collective leadership of collocated members did not have a significant impact. Specifically, greater distributed team member involvement in the collective enactment of structuring/planning leadership positively impacted team transition processes, while the collective enactment of supporting the social climate positively predicted team interpersonal processes. Although the relationship between perceived leadership role specialization, in terms of role distance and role variety, and team performance was mediated by overall teamwork processes as expected, leadership role specialization had a negative impact on overall teamwork. Finally, while team action processes did not serve to mediate the relationship between perceived problem solving network density and team performance, team transition processes mediated the relationships between the collective enactment of structuring/planning for distributed members and team performance. The collective enactment of supporting the social climate by distributed team members and its relationship to team performance was also mediated by interpersonal teamwork processes. Together, these results reveal the importance in considering context, specifically virtuality and physical distribution, when designing, developing v and maintaining effective team leadership, teamwork, and team performance. Furthermore, they provide unique insight regarding how different configurations of leadership may be possible in teams. Study limitations, practical implications, and recommendations for future research and practice are further discussed.


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Graduation Date





Salas, Eduardo


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Industrial and Organizational








Release Date

August 2016

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic