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Effective Leadership: The Power of Interaction

ORGC317 Leadership Essay

By Jacob Fuerst
Over the course of the quarter, my understanding of leadership has transformed
from an indescribable it factor to concrete awareness of the tangible things that make
a leader truly effective. I also learned that leading in a virtual setting is even more of a
challenge. That said, I now know a multitude of ways that a leader in a virtual team can
be effective, many of which I saw firsthand in my team. A leaders willingness to
communicate is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects, as it requires
consistent communication and serves to build overall cognitive trust. Ones ability to be
a transformational leader represents another crucial aspect, particularly to our team in
the Everest Simulation, where meeting self-esteem and self-actualization needs
wouldve improved our teams performance. Furthermore, a leaders ability to quell
social loafing while not necessary a definitive skill also remains vital to a teams
overall success. After all, if a leader can promote unmotivated members to participate,
group cohesion improves and so does work output. This class and the group work
within it showed me that a high willingness to communicate, the ability to be a
transformational leader, and the capability to motivate loafing members all make for an
extremely effective leader in a virtual team.
Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of effective leadership in virtual teams I
observed this quarter is the leaders WTC, or willingness to communicate; without it,
their credibility as a leader is threatened (Yoon). This involves consistent
communication with team members. In virtual teams, there is a reduced amount and

quality of information and less common information as a whole (Yoon). If the leader
maintains communication about group tasks and goals with the team, the lack of
information problem can be circumvented. Our leader did a fantastic job of this during
parts one and two of the paper we wrote. She set and maintained process-related
goals, which is the way goals are accomplished and which include frequent and
consistent communication among team members. She first emailed individual
members about what part of the paper theyd do best; she then made sure that
everyone had a voice on an issue before moving on, a recommendation of Furst et al
(Furst et al.). She also checked in with all of us via email multiple times a week and
made sure we were on schedule. By doing this, she monitored team progress through
technology, one of Malhotras suggestions for virtual leaders (Malhotra). Moreover, she
exchanged phone numbers with the team so that we could call her anytime with
questions. In this way, our leaders high WTC promoted cognitive trust in our team.
Cognitive trust is trust that ones team members are competent, reliable and responsible
(Yoon). Our leaders reliability was demonstrated through her consistent contact with all
of us, and her responsibility was evident through the work she herself put into the paper.
Leading by example and writing notes within the paper, on what to do next, kept the
whole team organized. Her consistent communication kept everyone in the loop. A high
WTC stands as one of the most important aspects of an effective leader, and our team
leader possessed it in spades.
Another aspect of effective leadership in virtual teams is that of transformational
leadership, something I actually wish our group leader exhibited more of. While
transactional leaders hinge their actions on punishments and rewards, transformational

leaders effectiveness is dependent on how much they help team members complete
goals (Burns). Such leaders also satisfy team member needs up to levels four and five
on Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological, safety, and belonging needs are met by
transformational leaders; so are self-esteem and self-actualization needs (Yoon). Our
team, particularly during the Everest Simulation, had a few members who felt extremely
lost and confused when they signed on. The situation begged for a strong
transformational leader. While our leader promoted physiological needs and safety
needs, especially regarding the simulations structure and rules, she did not encourage
self-esteem or self-actualization. One of our members would have really benefitted from
being told he was competent enough to handle the task a self-esteem issue. He had a
barrage of concerned questions before and during the simulation that exhibited his
anxiety over his ability to perform the task at hand. Moreover, our leader did not actively
work to bring out everyones potential, a self-actualization issue. This is demonstrated
by the fact that she did not evaluate or value individual members goals their potential
and instead focused on the group goal only. Had our leader ensured that everyone felt
confident and self-assured about their own role in the simulation, our members may
have been more willing to share their unique goals and information (Hinds and
Weisband). The Common Information Effect, where unique information is not shared
within a team, wouldnt have affected our team so negatively (Furst et al.). Team
member participation would have likely increased as well, because no one would feel
that they risked embarrassment for being wrong or confused. Transformational
leadership is a key element of an effective leader, and a leader that can satisfy all five
levels of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs will likely have a confident, effective team.

A last, critically important element of an effective leader in virtual teams is the

leaders ability to quell social loafing. Social loafing team member unreliability and
feelings of unimportance often occurs as a result of the Ringelmann effect, which is
the tendency for individuals to be less productive as a group gets larger (Kidwell).
Loafing members, especially in a group with a transactive memory system in place, like
ours, can seriously inhibit team success. This is because a transactive memory system
divides the cognitive work load between members (Yoon). Therefore, if one member
doesnt pull their weight, a piece of the group work goes missing. In our team, we
divided pieces of the paper between the six of us. Our leader tried to keep everyone
motivated, but two of our members just did not do much work at all. This forced the rest
of us to do extra work in order to cover for their social loafing. It also affected our group
cohesion negatively. If a leader can maintain communication with all members
preferably consistent communication team members will be less likely to ignore their
leader because they feel important. However, our leader used email as a primary
means to communicate with them. Hinds and Weisband state that e-mail allows little in
the way of real-time feedback and that it can lead to extensive information sharing
without the same level of shared understanding, (Hinds and Weisband). This notion
was reflected in our group I know this because our leader expressed frustration to me
that her detailed emails were not being read and absorbed by a few loafing team
members. She could have utilized technology more effectively through phone calls or
Skype, perhaps and it goes to show that a leaders ability to limit social loafing will
have a substantial impact on the teams success.

To be an effective leader in a virtual team, one must possess a high willingness

to communicate, the capacity to be a transformational leader when necessary and the
ability to limit social loafing. These skills were largely demonstrated to me firsthand
within my team; we wouldnt have completed the paper so successfully without our
leader and her skills in those areas. Communication builds trust; transformational
leadership boosts self-esteem; a lack of social loafing promotes cohesion. All of these
things lay the foundation for a team to work efficiently and effectively. If theres one
thing to learn from these skills, its that above all, interaction stands as a pivotal
requirement of an effective leader in a virtual team. Ill carry that knowledge with me as I
move forward and into the job market.

Works Cited
Burns, James MacGregor. Leadership. Open Road Media, 1978. Print.
Furst, Stacie , Benson Rosen, and Richard Blackburn. "Overcoming Barriers to
Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Teams." ScienceDirect, 2007. Web.
Furst, Stacie , Benson Rosen, and Richard Blackburn. "Managing the life cycle of virtual
teams." Academy of Management Executive, 2004. Web.

Hinds, Pamela, and Suzanne Weisband. "Knowledge Sharing and Shared

Understanding in Virtual Teams." National Science Foundation, Web.
Kidwell, Roland. "Loafing in the 21st century: Enhanced opportunitiesand remedies
for withholding job effort in the new workplace." ScienceDirect, 2010. Web.
Malhotra, Arvind, Jeffery Stamps, and Jessica Lipnack. "Can Absence Make a Team
Grow Stronger?." Atlas Systems, Inc. 2004. Web. <https://depaul.ares.atlassys.com/noncas/ares.dll?SessionID=P040012840S&Action=10&Type=10&Value
Yoon, Kay. "Lecturettes." DePaul University, Chicago. 2014. Lecture.