Virtual Leadership: A Green Possibility in Critical Times but Can It Really Work?

By Colfax, Richard S.; Santos, Annette T. et al. | Journal of International Business Research, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Virtual Leadership: A Green Possibility in Critical Times but Can It Really Work?


Colfax, Richard S., Santos, Annette T., Diego, Joann, Journal of International Business Research


ABSTRACT

Virtual teams are a necessity in global and even regional businesses today when operations and employees with special talents are not willing or able to relocate to a job or operational site. Traditionally a key employee was relocated to a company site to bring expertise to the team in a face to face environment. These employees were generally experts with technical skills or senior managers who were needed to head up operations in a foreign location. With employees being centralized, traditional leadership styles could therefore be applied relatively comfortably and effectively as the relationship was "face-to-face" (f-2-f). However, the roles and needs of global operations in the new "green era" are changing all these traditional paradigms.

With the development of technology, there has been a serious look at calling on and tapping in to expertise without the additional expense of relocations or travel. Travel is not a green response to the needs of business today; time, travel, relocation and cultural displacement result in expenses that basically ignore the advantages of leaving experts in the more advantageous work environments. The few studies of cost comparisons of conventional and virtual teams indicate major potential project cost reductions in such areas as travel/relocation, work efficiency and response-time. Management as well as the experts on a team could be more productive if linked through technology rather being relocated. However, managing from afar will not be the same as when it is conducted f-2-f. New leadership mindsets will be needed to organize and lead teams that are dispersed across the globe effectively and consistently. Clearly there is a need for a new form of management and leadership that effectively employs a virtual management base and approach which goes beyond the present cursory use of distance tools and actually creates effective, efficient and closely linked virtual global operations. Current leadership styles are really not suited to these new needs.

The challenge today will be to develop a new management style or approach that embraces the virtual world of global business where face-to-face management environments no longer are the norm. Managing effective teams and operations from a distance will require a new mindset and paradigm. Leaders of today and yesterday will need to shift their approaches in time to meet the demands of the fluid global and domestic economic environments that are expected in the next few decades. One suggestion is to develop a virtual management style that takes advantage of the available technologies and minimalizes forced f-2-f environments. This will require regular training of managers and team members, development of trust, and fully embracing delegation and constant inclusive communication among all team members.

INTRODUCTION

The recent changes in the economic environment of the world today are drawing critical attention to all aspects of business operations. The efforts to keep businesses afloat are requiring some very drastic measures and really hard looks at what is being done by management. Nowhere is this more required than in the global business arena. The old ways were not very green or employee friendly. Here green does not only mean reducing paperwork, rather it includes the increased reliance on technologies to minimize unnecessary traditional team practices.

Traditional paradigms and models are not meeting the needs of lean, austere and vibrant business operations of today. The global business operations we saw a decade ago are no longer going to be viable in the future if their past practices are adhered to as the standard for future operations. In particular, the way that global operations are managed by the "home office" or parent organization need to be overhauled and a new approach developed to meet the needs and demands of the changing world of global business operations for more green efficiencies and practices.

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Virtual Leadership: A Green Possibility in Critical Times but Can It Really Work?
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