Virtual Leaders: Born or Made?

By Mary Key, Ph.D.

Distance matters. An effective leader who has regular face-to-face contact with employees might not be as effective in cyberspace. Good conventional leadership skills are necessary but not sufficient to lead others at a distance. Therefore,its alarming how few organizations offer any special development for virtual leaders.

Perhaps the assumption is that good leaders should just know how to transfer their skills to a virtual environment as if they were born rather than made. For example, a Society for Human Resource Management study focused on the development of virtual leaders and reported that 80% of the respondents stated that special training was not at all a priority for virtual leaders. Over 60% of the respondents went onto say that their organizations provided no specific training for either the virtual team leader or virtual team members (Rosen, Furst, & Blackburn, 2006).

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