In an increasingly interconnected world society, the conception of independent, coherent, and stable cultures becomes increasingly irrelevant (Hermans & Kempen, 1998). Thus, when a leader “goes global” rarely is the challenge simply a matter of dealing with the biases one brings from the home culture to the new culture there is an additional complication; virtual culture. The complexity of globalization means that leadership interaction occurs both face-to-face and virtually. Therefore while it is certainly accurate to suggest the critical lessons of global leadership are learned in global work (McCall & Hollenbeck, 2002) the same leader cannot overestimate the impact distance has on leadership. The most notable impact is on social literacy defined by Rosen (2000) as the ability of the global leader to unleash the power of collective intelligence.
In a virtual setting this is rather difficult as one of the primary ways to release the power of collective intelligence is by recognizing the differing cultural meanings of verbal and non-verbal behavior (Berger, 1998). Without these cues the rapport and relationship building process might be a bit more challenging. Yet in virtual teams connected across time and space the relationship function is even more critical than in traditional collocated teams (Northouse, 2010). The “global virtual” leader must be able to “read” all the personal and contextual nuances in a world of electronic communications (Northouse, 2010). This is unlikely to occur unless the leader understands the functional, organizational, and national characteristics of each team member or direct report and uses these characteristics to strengthen the organization and affirm the individual (Smith, 2001). No one said “global virtual leadership” would be easy.
Berger, M. (1998). Going global: Implications for communication and leadership training. Industrial and Commercial Training, 30(4), 123-127.
Hermans, H. J., & Kempen, H. J. (1998). Moving cultures: The perilous problems of cultural dichotomies in a globalizing society. American Psychologist, 53(10), 1111-1120.
McCall, M. W., & Hollenbeck, G. P. (2002). Developing global executives: The lessons of international experience. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
Northouse, P. (2010). Leadership theory and practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Rosen, R. H. (2000). Global literacies: Lessons on business leadership and national cultures. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Smith, P. G. (2001). Communication holds global teams together. Machine Design, 73(14), 70-74.