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Fearless Idea 4: Work Across Time Zones

Mar 04, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — In the global economy, team leadership is often not as simple as gathering employees into the conference room to talk over a project or plan the next set of goals. The team is likely to span time zones and continents, presenting particular challenges for leaders.

Recent research from professor Kathryn M. Bartol at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business finds that the influence of leadership is moderated and strengthened by the degree to which the team is geographically dispersed. And the team’s performance fluctuates as a result. 

The research incorporates existing theories on leadership in geographically dispersed teams with empowering leadership theory and builds a multilevel model of virtual collaboration and performance in dispersed teams, says Bartol, who co-authored the report with N. Sharon Hill of George Washington University. They tested their model with procurement teams from a major multinational corporation. 

“Many people believe that leaders need to be fairly controlling in virtual teams because of the dispersion and complexity involved. Our research points in the opposite direction, toward the need to encourage and enable effective collaboration in virtual teams,” says Bartol, the Robert H. Smith Professor of Leadership and Innovation, chair of the Management and Organization Department and co-director of the Smith School’s Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change

To be sure, geographic dispersion can get in the way of effective communication, coordinating, problem-solving and trust-building — things that are essential for far-flung colleagues. What Bartol and Hill found in their research was the whole team benefitted when the team leadership was empowering, resulting in better virtual teamwork situational judgment, better collaboration and better individual performance.  

These findings shed important light on the role of team leadership in fostering effective collaboration and performance of geographically dispersed virtual teams.

Read more: Empowering Leadership and Effective Collaboration in Geographically Dispersed Teams, by N. Saron HillS at the George Washington University and Kathryn M. Bartol at the University of Maryland; Personnel Psychology 2016, 69, 159–198.

Kathryn M. Bartol is the Robert H. Smith professor of Leadership and Innovation, and the chair of the Management and Organization Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is also co-chair of the Smith School’s Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change. 

Research interests: Leadership, teams, knowledge sharing, creativity, and gender in the workplace. She has received major funding from the National Science Foundation, most recently for studying effective leadership in virtual teams. 

Selected accomplishments: Bartol is a past Dean of the Fellows of the Academy of Management, as well as a past President of the Academy of Management. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and the American Psychological Society. She won a Sage Scholar Award from the Academy of Management and is a three-time winner of the Krowe Award for Teaching Excellence from the Smith School. 

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.

Other fearless ideas from: Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  |  Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  Cynthia Kay Stevens  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang  |  PhD Candidates

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.