Situational Leadership Styles in Virtual Teams

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Provide a brief scene when each of the situational leadership styles would be appropriate.

The four styles of situational leadership as described by Paul Hersey include directing, coaching, supporting and delegating and the level of maturity of employees will determine the style to be adopted by a particular leader.

S1: Telling (Directing). The development level under this category is low and thus, there is high directive and low supportive behavior and the leader has to deal with unmotivated and incompetent employees (David, 2016). Telling is reflected by the high-task/ low relationship behavior. A scenario in which S1 is applicable involves when an employee is new and inexperienced and thus cannot perform the tasks independently because of the low follower readiness level. Thus, in this situation, good instruction and monitoring regarding the entire procedure for working should be provided in composed tasks and final decision making is made by the leader. The employee should not be overburdened too much information at once and S1 style allows a leader to complement the progress being made.

S2: Selling (Coaching). In this style, the leader is highly directive and supportive even though the employees have not reached full maturity as they are hindered by certain circumstances such as lack of skills and knowledge to work enthusiastically. S1 reflects high task/high relationship behavior characterized by explanation and persuasion elements (Blackwell & Gibson, 1998). A situation in which coaching can be applied involves when an employee feels insecure to adapt to the changes or reforms made by the management of an organization. The scenario will require two-way communication and much facilitating behavior between the follower and leader. The leader will guide the employee who is reluctant about accepting the changes through an explanation of the decision made, listen to the feedback and give undivided attention.

S3: Participating (Supporting). Under this category, the leader portrays high supportive and low directive behavior and the development level of the follower is moderate. The employees are temporarily unwilling despite being qualified and capable.  A scenario in which a leader will apply supporting leadership style includes when an employee such as a marketer has committed a mistake and customers deny purchasing products being advertised. In this situation, the worker remains stagnate, insecure and loses confidence. Hence, the support from the leader will be important by allowing employees to participate in decision making, and stimulate them through sparring and face-to-face brainstorming (Blackwell & Gibson, 1998). Afterwards, there will be increased possibilities to take risks as well as trust in personal abilities.

S4: Delegating. S4 is characterized by low relationship and low task behavior and is a level whereby employees are independent when they perform their tasks as the level of maturity is high. Minimum guidance is given as workers have the ability to solve problems (Lynch, 2015). For instance, delegating situational leadership style can be applied when driving behavior change and results regarding the implementation of electronic health records in a health facility by empowering the subordinate staff to portray high levels of competence together with enhanced commitment. Positive outcomes can be achieved through supervision as well as intervention.

Question Two

Discuss a real-life example of a virtual team

SAP, the world’s largest inter-enterprise software company, applies virtual team collaboration to achieve success in its operations. Managers across 60 countries in which SAP has centers assemble virtual teams that consist of employees from various specialty groups. The performance of the virtual teams in the organization is enhanced through creation of an ongoing team-building initiative that depend on briefings, conference halls, online learning and coaching sessions. Leaders of SAP encourage their team members to spend more time with the family, take adventures and share travel photos to make everyone happy and more productive through self-motivation (Shonhiwa, 2016). The virtual team is diverse as it consists of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures who focus on achieving the best in future. Instant messaging, virtual conference rooms and online chat promote the cross-border collaboration among the employees. Team members can reach each other more effectively through an encouraged discussion that eventually leads to removal of hierarchical and physical boundaries within the company (Alotebi, Alharbi and Masmali, 2018). As a result, they continuously aim at achieving common goals and objectives through dedication of time, resources and time as well as collaborating with colleagues. However, the company faces challenges of operating a virtual team due to burden in managing life and work obligations, logistical challenge in answering the demand for in-person meetings, varying national holidays, language barriers and varying communication styles.

The employees in SAP are encouraged to work from anywhere across the world and the company covers costs such as purchasing a standing desk for the home office and is always considered as a great bonus incentive for recruiting employees. As an organization that fosters innovation and technology, the virtual workforce environment help in connecting people through SAP’S virtual office, a digital chat room for updating workflows, keeping in contact and maintaining a sense of camaraderie (Abbasnejad and Moud, 2012). The digital conference room consists of a free software that enhances teamwork and connectivity especially when the leaders are planning to run video meetings. The digital communication tools are important as they allow efficient flow of information to allow everyone to stay up-to-date on progress of the current projects. The company believes that virtual teaming has contributed significantly to the improvement of speed, coordination of work processes and also, enhanced cost-effectiveness.

Therefore, from this example, the success of a virtual team relies on strong leadership that can build good rapport and foster trust through strategies such as developing emotional intelligence, demonstrating exemplary communication skills and focusing on relationship building. Technology plays a significant role in enhancing the success of an organization. For the overall growth of a business, technology should be integrated by allowing employees to remain virtually connected and henceforth, become relevant in the highly competitive environment (Gordon, 2014). A strong and dedicated team leader is needed to effectively address the unique needs of every individual and encourage participation and attentiveness when sharing opinions, ideas and compliments. The three common characteristics identified in SAP’s example concerning what entails an effective virtual leader include effective communication, building trust and lastly, increased attentiveness via participation, handling conflicts efficiently and regular recognition of each team member.

Analyse being an effective leader in a virtual environment; What are the competencies needed to be an effective team leader considering distance and diversity of membership.

From the Path-Goal leadership theory, an effective leader should be participative, supportive, directive and achievement-oriented together with employee motivation, satisfaction and leader acceptance. Team leaders in a virtual environment should be sensitive to cultural, communication and interpersonal factors which help in overcoming challenges of distance and diversity (Tworoger, Ruppel, Gong & Pohlman, 2013). Individual tasks should be linked to a clear team purpose which is necessary especially when handling crucial differences that result from a virtual-team interaction. An effective virtual leader always focuses on widening members' local mindset to a global perspective to promote creation of an environment of respect. To achieve the mission of high performing teams, it is paramount to enhance sharing of responsibilities along with gaining insights on benefits of mutual dependence (Inyang, 2013). Nevertheless, to facilitate authenticity and trust, a culture of openness has to be created to defuse miscommunications by focusing on behaviors rather than personalities. In a virtual environment, leaders need to engage the followers in a meaningful communication and direct them on what should be done to achieve the expected outcomes. At this point, it will be crucial to hold members accountable for any action taken and maintain standards regarding frequency and modes of communication.

Reliable and current exchange of information will depend on the ability to access relevant and up-to-date technology. When a virtual team leader engages members actively and adopt an appropriate mechanism of conflict resolution, avoidance of lengthy energy-consuming confrontations becomes easier. Due to geographical dispersion, members of a virtual team make rigorous efforts to ensure that there are coordination and critical work systems' components to produce the expected variables within the defined constraints (Tworoger et al., 2013). Individuals in the virtual environment should be inspired to achieve best results through strategies such as recognition and rewards and supporting others via the provision of coaching and feedback. People should be held accountable for meeting specific commitments and team members should be encouraged on the need to resolve work-related issues faster and demonstrate a high-level motivation.

The required key competencies include ability to build trust between the leader and members, enhance team orientation and integration, effective communication, personal characteristics, provision of clear goal directions and improved accessibility to instant feedback (Abbasnejad and Moud, 2012). Additionally, there should be conflict resolution and operational coordinating ability to achieve the targeted objectives and goals of a particular organization.

If leaders of a virtual team would want to give credibility of their roles, business of technical skills and knowledge are important to promote communication of essential project information in an efficient manner. Therefore, to become an effective leader for a virtual team, awareness, quality decision making and monitoring changes in the environmental conditions are essential elements when diversity of membership and distance are considered. The leader should have the abilities to balance cultural, interpersonal and communication factors and execution-oriented practices (Tworoger et al., 2013). In the directive aspect, an effective leader should delegate work and responsibilities appropriately to allow employees to work comfortably in an unstructured environment. When making decisions, appropriate consultations and engagements can enhance the prosperity of a particular firm.

Analyze the constraints and complexities to leadership posed by this environment

Leading virtual teams face a lack of face time, time and cultural differences, technology tools, developing trust among team members and performance barrier. Ineffective interaction can lead to failed successful teaming and will require leadership to focus on a supporting spirit and productivity (Ebrahim, Ahmed & Taha, 2011). Setting up meetings with the entire becomes difficult due to time zone differences which can lead to miscommunication. Nevertheless, managing cross-cultural differences in a successful way may be challenging given that trust develops at the task level as opposed to interpersonal level. The differences in the perceived status and interpretation of communication can interfere with team formation, communication and collaboration (Alotebi et al., 2018). One of the greatest challenges is poor communication as virtual teams lack informal everyday face-to-face interactions and henceforth, result in loss of important information. The leaders cannot make significant steps toward innovation, decision-making and team-effectiveness. However, a person can overcome the constraint through development of partnerships and creation of smaller interdependent tasks.

Another complexity involves lack of social interaction that hinders establishment of working friendships. The leader can face difficulties to handle members who feel demotivated as well as despondent. Although, instant messaging may be used can engage members to some extent.  Mistrust can also be created through virtual working as members cannot get immediate responses as they rarely work at the same time (Morley, Cormican & Folan, 2015). Thus, supportive team managers will be required to make significant efforts of creating awareness regarding contribution and achievement of every person. Setting clear goals together with expectations are helpful to virtual team leaders who want to build a trustworthy environment. The diverse multicultural groups always lead to conflicting values, work habits and customs and therefore, managers find it difficult to overcome cultural diversity issues (Gordon, 2014). To find common grounds and minimize conflicts, more emphasis is put on accepting team customs and specific work ethics that could promote cultural understanding. Individuals that are working on the same project are globally dispersed which implies that there will be loss of morale and team spirit.

Shared leadership can be helpful as everyone will remain connected to common goals as leaders will create a clear direction. The physical distance and lack of interactions lead to incompetence among the diverse persons who cannot ask questions and seek clarifications at their convenient team (Morley, Cormican & Folan, 2015). Leaders face complexities in delegating which also hinder the process of building a sense of commitment as well as ownership of a particular project. Due to different time horizons, keeping every person in the same direction becomes difficult as the various professionals in a virtual team have varying priorities and abilities. If members will have to remain focused, entrenching a specific goal will require a supportive and achievement-oriented leader who can convince individuals to pay attention to effective planning, hard work, engagement and foresight (Tworoger et al., 2013). Other constraints include inaccessibility to expertise, planning overhead, team morale, lack of support and inadequate training. When employees are working outside the traditional office, a company can experience low productivity due to lack of day-to-day oversight. Additionally, due to lack of boundaries, some workers may risk burnout which affects overall performance. Hence, leaders will have to make more attempts to increase accountability and form support structures.

Question Three

Analyze the six root causes of managerial incompetence and derailment and reflect on what makes leaders effective

The worst boss I have ever had is the manager of an organization I worked with last year who could always provide feedback by just stating that a person is performing well and yet it was not true. He caused the organization to experience excessive turnover, disarray and unhappy customers because he was not supportive and did not provide feedback that could allow a person to make significant progress and enhance experience, knowledge and skills. He could give empty praise and was an absentee leader who was psychologically absent and represents the characteristic of destructiveness. He portrayed managerial derailment in different ways including skepticism that eroded trust, reluctant to take chances, manipulating people, hyper-emotionality, overly conforming and ingratiating. The manager was therefore incompetent and the behavior can be explained by the six root causes of managerial incompetence.

Lack of self-awareness: the leader faced difficulties in handling employees because he was not fully conscious of the impact of the messages he sent and feedback provided whenever he came across the employees. Therefore, effective interaction and understanding of employees were not easy which significantly impact happiness, satisfaction and motivation of both the manager and employees (Merethe, Anders, Guy, Morten & Ståle, 2010). If a leader lacks self-awareness, he cannot have the power to build, communicate, adapt and maintain a good team.  

Lack of situational awareness: The manager could not provide crisis and critical issues management solutions due to inaccessibility to the right mix of information that could produce better decision making. Adapting to the dynamically changing environmental conditions was not easy as there were no crisis preparedness measures that could help in correctly assessing a situation and implementation of appropriate procedures (Inyang, 2013).

Lack of intelligence and expertise: the manager’s incompetence could be seen in the way he always felt, angry, frustrated tired and disoriented because he was a leader without expertise in the industry. He only relied on core strengths that include the capacity for hard work and high intelligence but failed to focus on relations rather than facts and made decisions basing on the unique knowledge he had at that time.

Leadership motivation: the managerial derailment resulted from the leader’s lack of motivation traits such as honest, effective communication and ability to delegate. He lacked the goal-oriented characteristic that is necessary when one seeks to encourage workers to work hard and focus on attaining the expected goals and objectives.

Poor followership: under this category, the leader becomes incompetent due to low morality, toxic culture, distorted vision and misjudgment. As employees we were not motivated to become competent in our areas of specialization as the manager also did not portray professionalism when handling organizational and workplace issues.

Dark-side personality traits: the manager was incompetent because he would always show characteristics such as perfectionism, impulsivity, fear of failure, narcissism, and interpersonal insensitivity and argumentative which are destructive and hinder leader development. As a result, these traits had negative effects on organizational productivity, team effectiveness and employee relationships.


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January 19, 2024



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