Chapter overview

The first chapter of this work elaborates the motivation underlying the research project. As globalization and technology persistently add value to the way corporations interact internally, the focus is placed on how these effects impact the leader- follower relationship in particular. The problem is summarized, followed by a description of the knowledge gap. A brief summary is provided on research objectives and methodology, followed by an outline of quality control procedures undertaken to ensure this study adheres to highest academic quality standards. The structure of this dissertation is illustrated at the end of the first chapter.


Globalization and technological advancements evolving along with constant access to the World Wide Web create an environment for international corporations that is now questioning work modalities and consequently beginning to restructure them. Regardless of location, corporations use human resources in a way that is strongly dependent on advanced information technologies (AIT). In particular, organizational leaders encounter situations in which followers are continuously located in various places around the globe, facing challenges of geographic dispersion. Additionally, physical distribution makes leaders realize the high potential that distant collaboration may hold for performance and productivity (Sobel-Lojeski, 2010). Electronic collaboration in a physically distant setting does not only cut travel expenses, it may also leverage synergies between cross-functional workgroups (Bullock & Tucker-Klein, 2011).

What are the antecedents that influence the relationship between leaders and followers in international corporations? Researchers claim that structural, social, and psychological distance components potentially affect this dyadic liaison (Napier & Ferris, 1993) as individuals suddenly find themselves working with people they have never met face-to-face before. Team members now require a broad knowledge of sociological diversity when dealing frequently with individuals from different national and cultural backgrounds (Torres & Bligh, 2012, p. 23). Organizational leaders may in fact realize that traditional leadership behaviors are no longer as effective as they once were and that traditional modes of influence and control are diminishing (Bradner & Mark, 2008; Hertel, Geister & Konradt, 2005). As a consequence of physical distribution, corporations heavily apply new technological

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2017

N. Poser, Distance Leadership in International Corporations,

Advances in Information Systems and Business Engineering,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-15223-9_1

infrastructure while the relationship between individuals disappears from focus. A large number of assisting tools are available to exchange information virtually and make distant work more transparent. E-mail, telephone and videoconferencing technology, online presentation-sharing platforms, and virtual workspaces are just a few examples which help to define a common ground for information exchange.

Understanding the changes in collaboration, organizational decision-makers seem to lack awareness of the impact that distant alterations in context might have on the leader-follower relationship. For team leaders, contextual factors provide challenging implications (Antonakis & Atwater, 2002, p. 698). Not only do leaders and followers need to learn how to deal with technology; they require integrating it into the existing corporate culture and processes (Pulley & Sessa, 2001, p. 225). This may expose organizational leaders to a new level of complexity when applying traditional leadership methods to a technology-driven setting. Andrews (2004) describes the foundation of distance leadership as “focusing on the social aspects of interaction, being more attentive to the special needs of team members, using technology creatively, and establishing respectful policies that support communications” (p. 14).

The implications of modern work structures, remotely located teams and distance leadership are diverse. Research has investigated traditional leadership theories for half a century and has recently applied modern frameworks to keep up with the pace of a fast changing environment. On one hand, dozens of studies have examined the benefits of virtual teams and (technological) challenges they are facing when working in dispersed settings. On the other hand, the leader-follower relationship has largely been neglected in the context of geographic distance and this provides opportunities for deeper investigation (Eichenberg, 2007).

The presented work closes the knowledge gap by applying one of the most widely accepted leadership theories in recent academic research to a distance setting. To wit, Full Range Leadership (Bass & Avolio, 1995) has not yet been applied holistically to a work setting of physical distance. Insight into the relationship of leaders and followers in a work environment of physical distance is still sparse even if virtual collaboration promises to be the work mode of the future for international corporations (Zakaria, Amelinckx & Wilemon, 2004). The research correspondingly discusses the role of leaders and followers in international corporations taking various forms of distance into account.

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