Virtual leadership: on becoming a real leader.

Caulat, Ghislaine (2010) Virtual leadership: on becoming a real leader. DProf thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Virtual working is truly nothing new. This way of working (mediated by communication technology) has been practised for at least twenty years and a lot has been written on this topic. However after so many years virtual working remains an unsatisfactory practice which at best is considered as ‘second class’, something you do when you cannot travel. In the light of incremental globalisation, as well as growing concerns for the environment and for a better life quality, it has become more crucial than ever to master virtual working.
In 2006 I embarked on research grounded in the Action Research methodology, and my intention has been to put this work in the service of leaders who need to lead virtually and want to improve their practice. I worked alongside several leaders who had to learn and lead virtually, and we explored together what it takes to lead effectively in the virtual space.
The results can be summarised as follows:
• One of the main reasons that virtual working has remained unsatisfactory is that the leadership aspect of this work has been underestimated, if not completely forgotten. Most literature speaks about ‘managing virtual teams’ and focuses on the tasks at hand and the things to do and not do. My research shows that leading virtually represents a new discipline, different from traditional leadership, that needs to be recognised as such and learnt.
• In the process of learning to become effective virtual leaders, leaders need to go to a deeper level of reflexivity, and question key aspects such as their
own sense of identity as leaders, relationships, trust and power. In so doing they realise that some of their practices actually become questionable in the traditional leadership practice as well. By learning to lead virtually, the leaders I have worked with have learnt to become better and ‘real’ leaders.
• In the same way that leading virtually needs to be considered as a new discipline of leading, the research on virtual leadership requires new methodologies. It adds to and amplifies the questions raised in the last ten years by some academics, who claim that a fundamentally new approach in leadership research is asked for, namely one grounded in social constructionism, existentialism and phenomenology, and with a stronger focus on reflexivity.

Item Type: Thesis (DProf)
Additional Information: A project submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Professional Studies (Organisational Consulting).
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 7731
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2011 15:07
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 01:02

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