Virtual leadership: How leaders secure performance when outside immediate proximity of their employees

Frederik Cordes & Christoffer Malling

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to study the leadership challenges facing virtual teams and build a theoretical concept based on case study research that answers the research question – how leaders can secure performance when outside immediate proximity of their employees. Empirical data for this thesis is collected from qualitative interviews with key informants from six virtually organised international companies – 37signals, Joost, Polycom, Storyplanet, Wildbit and Workstreamer. In conversing between theory and data, we identify fifteen actions taken by virtual leaders in everyday practices. These actions are grouped into three analytical levels – structuring, empowering and enacting -­‐ inspired by Mintzberg, Andersen and Weick. In enfolding further literature by Czarniawska, Nymark, Senge, Goffee & Jones and Rollinson, we shape our nine hypotheses about performance-­‐securing virtual leadership, from which we base our concept that emphasises the importance of the leader as a narrator, telling stories that pass on guidelines, inspire and lead to productivity; the leader as a connector, maintaining a culture high on sociability and solidarity; and the leader as a director, defining procedures, tasks and pointing towards a state of sensemaking productivity. The contributed concept of virtual leadership is valuable to researchers as well as practitioners in the provision of a causal, coherent and meaningful understanding of the processes behind virtual leadership and in pointing to actions for improving practices.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages126