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I'm writing a paper on leading virtual teams.

Are there any certain leadership practices/theories/approaches that are unique to virtual teams? I've skimmed a few books on the topic, but I just realized that many of the books talk about leadership practices in general, nothing really unique about leading virtual teams. Are there certain approaches to leading virtual teams that you don't find elsewhere?

  • Can you provide more details as what you mean by "virtual team"? This could mean a team that is assembled just for a particular project from people that otherwise have a different fixed role in an org chart. Or it could relate to a team whose members are geographically distributed. I assume you mean the latter. Please confirm. – Manfred Nov 8 '11 at 3:35
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    I work in a geographically distributed team and blogged about it here. If you are writing about virtual teams in a onshore-offshore, geographically distributed environment, you may find the concept of ONE team, mentioned in that blog entry, interesting. – Prateek Narang Nov 8 '11 at 10:23
  • Maybe as a bonus, producingoss.com is a free book/PDF about running a free software project. The chapters 4-Political infrastructure, 6-communications and 8-Managing volunteers, may be interesting for you – elhombre Nov 11 '11 at 16:52
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Personally I don't know any specific approaches which are applicable in dispersed teams but not in regular ones. The main difference is that you need to adjust they way leaders, and whole teams, work if they don't have a chance to meet in person. Usually it means heavier use of different tools to support communication and collaboration.

This is a pattern you will see if you look at people speaking on the subject. For example Jutta Eckstein covering agile practices in dispersed teams focused exactly on that. How we can adjust practices and techniques we'd use in co-located team to the situation where people are spread all over the world.

If I had to point things which are happening in virtual teams and not in co-located ones I would say that some companies invest time and money to bring everyone to a single place to get everyone meet each other. It really fosters collaboration as you work differently with someone you know in person than with someone who is just a nick on Skype. I could bring this one to adjusting standard practices which you get by-design in co-located teams too. After all when you work in the same office you actually are meeting each other, aren't you?

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