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Embedded in the 2022 SIETAR Congress Re-Thinking Interculturalism, Prof. Marie-Therese Claes, Head of the Institute for Gender and Diversity at the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, presented her latest research on this exciting question.

During the pandemic teams collaborated almost solely virtually and experienced a new proximity to their local and global colleagues. With the increase of uncertainties and a rapid, often unprepared digital transition, new tasks for leaders of virtual teams emerged. Among them are the concentration on interpersonal dynamics, increase of engagement time, and role clarity. This challenges us with the following question:

  • What are the qualities of successful virtual team leaders and what do team members need?

Despite the new challenges that working remotely brought along, there is also the exciting opportunity to engage more introverted team members and support their growth into leadership positions. Here, the balance between introverted leaders and more extravert team members is crucial for team success. Claes carved out two interesting hypotheses, which state

  • a significant positive correlation between introversion and leader emergence exists in virtual teams, and
  • a significant positive correlation between introversion and leader effectiveness exists in virtual teams.

Can you relate to these hypotheses when thinking of your own virtual teamwork whilst seeing a correlation between introversion on one side and leader emergence and effectiveness on the other side? When we find ourselves in the selection or development process for virtual leaders, it is essential to reflect that introversion can be a strong feature for a leader, depending on the team dynamics and the (cultural) context the teams are operating in.

Concluding, we can record that introverts have a greater tendency to emerge as leaders in a virtual setting and the leader effectiveness perceived by other members of the virtual group seems to be positively correlated with introversion. Leaders function more as facilitators who excel in dedication, availability, involvement and patience. In terms of the effectiveness of the whole team, it is important to focus on listening skills and thinking first to build trust, traits that are usually strongly developed with introverts.

 

Despite all the above mentioned, we must remember that being (seen as) either an introvert or extravert can highly depend on the context and the own adaptation to certain situations.  Follow-Up Question: What does this mean for hybrid settings, where introverts suddenly might suddenly be out in F2F work-environments again?

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