Research Question: How is leader performance influenced by leadership style, physical distance, and communication effectiveness between leaders and followers?
Abstract: As remote work arrangements have gained in popularity, workforce dispersion has become increasingly widespread. Little research to date has examined how physical distance influences leader–follower communication effectiveness or leader performance. Building on top of transformational leadership theory, this paper explores how perceived leader performance is influenced by leadership style, physical distance, and communication effectiveness between leaders and followers. A survey of 138 followers, reporting to a total of 41 leaders, was conducted and data were analyzed at the individual follower-level using the Partial Least Squares (PLS) technique. Our model explained 45% of the variance in communication effectiveness and 67% of the variance in perceived leader performance. Consistent with past empirical findings, transformational leadership was associated more strongly with perceived leader performance than transactional contingent reward leadership. Communication effectiveness was also a strong predictor of leader performance, and furthermore acted as a mediator of leadership behavior on performance. Surprisingly, distance had no influence on either communication effectiveness or perceived leader performance. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Findings: Leader performance was strongly influenced by transformational leadership, and marginally by transactional leadership. Communication effectiveness was also a strong predictor of performance, both directly and as a mediator of leadership behaviours. Physical distance had no impact on leader performance or communication effectiveness. Communication R2=.45; Performance R2=.67.
Implications: (1) Distance does not have to be a barrier to effective communication, or effective leadership. (2) Strong leadership is synonymous with strong communication, regardless of distance. (3) The combination of strong leadership, and strong communication, leads to high performance (whether close or distant).
Citation: Neufeld, D.J., Wan, Z., & Fang Y. (2010). Remote leadership, communication effectiveness and leader performance. Group Decision and Negotiation 19(2), pp. 227-246. [link]