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TABLE 4 Results of OLS Regression Predicting Team Virtual Collaborationa

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Coefficient B (SE)

Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 3

Team type .38∗ (.14) .31∗ (.14) .29∗ (.12) Team technology support .15∗ (.06) .10 (.06) .14∗ (.06) Empowering team

leadership .34∗ (.15) .30∗ (.13)

Geographic dispersion −.04 (.02) Empowering team

leadership∗ Geographic dispersion

.08∗ (.04)

R2 .33 .45 .63 �R2 .12 .18 F 6.65 6.75 7.83

Note. aAnalyses were based on listwise deletion (n = 193 individuals in 29 teams) ∗p < .05

Hypotheses Predicting Team Virtual Collaboration and Team Performance

Hypotheses 3 predicted that team geographic dispersion moderates the positive relationship between team empowering leadership and team virtual collaboration. As shown in Table 4 (Model 2), empowering team leadership was positively associated with team virtual collaboration (B = .34, p < .05), and as predicted by Hypothesis 4 (Table 4, Model 3), the interaction between empowering team leadership and team geographic dispersion was significant (B = .08, p < .05). Figure 3 graphically shows this interaction at two levels of team geographic dispersion (i.e., mean +1 and –1 standard deviation). As predicted, the relationship between empowering leadership and team virtual collaboration was more positive at high levels of team geographic dispersion. The relationship at low levels of team geographic dispersion was not significant.

Hypothesis 4 predicted that the indirect relationship between empow- ering team leadership and team performance through team virtual col- laboration is moderated by team geographic dispersion. As preliminary support for this hypothesis, we found a positive association between team virtual collaboration and team performance (B = 1.31, p < .001) when we regressed team member performance on team virtual collaboration and empowering leadership. We then proceeded to test Hypothesis 4 in a more integrative fashion. Using a Monte Carlo approach with 20,000 repeti- tions, we computed the size of the indirect effect at high (mean +1 SD) and low levels (mean –1 SD) of the team geographic dispersion moderator




variable and also examined the 95% confidence interval for each of these indirect effects. We found that the indirect relationship was significant and positive when team geographic dispersion was high (indirect effect = .67; 95% CI [.149, 1.38]) but was not significant (indirect effect = –.099; 95% CI [–.376, .637]) when team geographic dispersion was low. Hence, Hypothesis 4 was supported.


In this study, we contribute to theory and research on leadership in dispersed teams as well as empowering leadership. We test a multiLevel model that integrates Bell and Kozlowski’s (2002) theoretical perspec- tive related to distributed leadership in dispersed teams with empowering leadership theory (Arnold et al., 2000, Srivastava et al., 2006). Our results shed important new light on major elements influencing virtual collabo- ration and performance in geographically dispersed teams. We found a significant cross-level effect of empowering team leadership, such that under conditions of high empowering team leadership, the influence of a team member’s VT-SJ on his or her virtual collaboration behaviors, and ultimately individual performance in the team, was significantly positive. In addition, at the team level, our results showed that the indirect effect of empowering leadership on team performance through the aggregate virtual collaboration of team members was significantly positive at higher levels of team geographic dispersion. This supports previous research showing the importance of the geographic dispersion variable but extending it to the case of empowering leadership.

Theoretical Implications

More specifically, our study makes three important theoretical contributions. First, our findings support Bell and Kozlowski’s (2002) proposition that an effective strategy for dispersed team leadership is to distribute leadership functions to the team in a way that fosters collabora- tion among team members. This study contributes to the limited existing empirical research that has examined distributed forms of leadership in dispersed teams by moving beyond the predominant focus on leadership in conjunction with the use of information and communication tools (e.g., Rapp et al., 2010; Surinder et al., 1997; Wakefield et al., 2008). Here, we show the utility of a leadership approach—empowering leadership—that shares power with subordinates to promote effective virtual collabora- tion behaviors and performance under dispersed team circumstances. Hence, the results of this study contribute to theory about leadership in




geographically dispersed teams and at the same time extend empowering leadership to the domain of geographically dispersed teamwork.

As a second contribution, our findings support Bell and Kozlowski’s (2002) argument that distributed leadership serves as an important contex- tual factor that allows a team member to better utilize attributes relevant to virtual teamwork in collaboration with dispersed team members. In this study, the relationship between VT-SJ and team member virtual collabo- ration was positive only under conditions of high empowering leadership. When exposed to low levels of empowering leadership, team member VT-SJ did not translate into more effective team member virtual collab- oration and individual performance. Interestingly, although we expected a direct effect of VT-SJ on team member virtual collaboration, and the results of two pilot studies supported such an effect, we did not find this di- rect effect in the current field study. These findings point to the potentially critical role of empowering leadership in determining whether team mem- ber attributes relevant to distributed teamwork become manifest as more effective team member virtual collaboration behaviors and improved per- formance. Empowering leadership provides team members with greater latitude in addressing everyday virtual collaboration challenges. Indeed, individuals with high VT-SJ, but exposed to low empowering leadership, had the lowest level of virtual collaboration. It appears that in an environ- ment of low empowering leadership, dispersed team members with high levels of VT-SJ are either unable or unwilling to apply their knowledge of effective virtual teamwork strategies. More broadly, our findings also con- tribute to emerging team leadership research that shows the importance of investigating the cross-level effects of team leadership on individual processes in teams (e.g., Chen & Kanfer, 2006; Chen et al., 2007).

Along with highlighting the importance of the cross-level effects found, this study also adds to a limited body of research that has identified individual differences that are important for distributed team functioning. Researchers have long stressed the need for empirical research to iden- tify such characteristics (Blackburn et al. 2003; Powell et al., 2004; Shin, 2004). Nevertheless, a recent review of the literature emphasized this area as a continuing research need (Kirkman et al., 2012). According to the authors, “many gaps remain in understanding the role of the individual in virtual teams” (Kirkman et al., 2012, p. 809). In particular, past research has focused on more stable personality traits, rather than characteristics, such as VT-SJ, that can potentially be developed. Accordingly, in this study, we have integrated performance theory and research on dispersed teams to identify VT-SJ as a critical variable that, under conditions of high empowering leadership, positively relates to the effectiveness with which an individual collaborates virtually with teammates and thereby also contributes to improved individual performance.




As a third major contribution, our findings confirm Bell and Kozlowski’s (2002) contention that leadership behaviors, such as empow- ering leadership that involve sharing power with team members, might become more important at higher levels of team dispersion. The relation- ship of empowering leadership to team virtual collaboration, and indi- rectly to team performance, was significant and positive under conditions of high geographic dispersion. Further, the relationship between empow- ering leadership and team

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