Emergent Leadership in Virtual Teams: A Multilevel Investigation of Individual Communication and Team Dispersion Antecedents

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The Leadership Quarterly




While considerable research has been conducted on understanding why individuals are perceived as leaders in traditional work contexts, much less is known about how individual difference variables influence leader perceptions in a virtual environment. In this study, we examine this issue by investigating the effects of two communication-related constructs (communication apprehension [CA] and text-based communication ability [TBCA]) on leadership emergence in virtual teams. We also examine how leadership emergence is affected by team dispersion: specifically, overall team configuration and dyadic team member co-location. Predicated on adaptive structuration theory (DeSanctis & Poole, 1994), we propose a theoretical model that outlines the effects of the individual difference attributes and team dispersion variables on leadership emergence. Results of an experiment testing the model with 84 four-person teams of varying levels of team member dispersion suggest that CA and TBCA have significant relationships with leadership emergence, as well as team configuration and team member co-location.