Leadership styles used by leaders


This chapter presents the empirical data from the six conducted interviews. Full interview transcripts can be seen in the appendix sections. All the persons interviewed work in virtual teams. The during these six interviews will be described in this chapter, while the significance and meaning of this data will be transcribed in the discussion and conclusion chapter.


4.1 Interviewees

The persons interviewed for this research consist of a global organisation who predominantly work virtually. The nature of the work is to create virtual roadshows for investment banks based on specific details using the companys virtual software and deliver them within requested time. The interviewees consisted of 3 leaders and 3 subordinates. Leader 1 is the head of the team based in New York, leader 2 is the deputy of leader 1 based in Atlanta and leader 3 has just been promoted to lead the team in London. Subordinate 1 is one of the oldest employees in the company and is based in California, subordinate 2 is based in London and subordinate 3 is the newest member of the organisation also based in California. Below is the organisation chart to understand the hierarchy of the six interviewees.


Figure 1 Hierarchy chart of the interviewees

4.2 Data Analysis and Data Coding

Automatic analysis of qualitative data uses computer-assisted data analysis tools to code data and categorise themes. Software tools are helpful for initial coding and capturing the extensiveness of data without missing relevant points. Manual analysis means creating codes and categorising them manually by reading through the data methodically, reviewing them, and eventually presenting the data in a thematic manner. Manual analysis was used as in this case because the interviewees were limited to six and after using a trial version of a software it was understood that automatic analysis is beneficial if there is high volume of data.

All the interview sessions were done virtually with participants and after extensively reading the interview transcripts codes were assigned to describe the content based on some common keywords and phrases that appeared in the discussions. For example, leading or lead by example was a very common phrase that appeared in the responses. Similarly, the term democratic was mentioned by all leaders. A list of keywords, phrases and some standard terms were used to develop common points among the participants responses. The approach used here was to do thematic analysis of the interviews which is only possible by identifying repetitive themes in the participants answers. A mix of inductive and deductive coding was used to get relevant codes from the transcripts, reducing the chances of missing appropriate terms and getting beneficial insights.

Inductive coding involves getting code from the data which is suitable for exploratory studies as the purpose is to develop unique ideas or theories. During the analysis of the interview transcript below relevant codes were noted, which are as follows:


People Virtual Challenges Mentoring
Virtually Mentorship Support Conflict
Team Internet Lost Barrier
Leadership Mistake Grow Communicate


Table 1 Inductive codes


Deductive coding was implemented to set a codebook according to the three objectives of the research study. Although deductive coding can be somewhat restrictive at times than open or inductive coding, it assists in saving time and effort to quickly identify relevant data according to the codebook. However, a predetermined focus could miss valuable insights, all potential codes were added to overcome this shortcoming. Here is the codebook that helped in finding relevant excerpts from the interview transcripts:


Research Objectives Codes
To develop an understanding of the role leadership plays in virtual team projects mentor, coach, support, conflict management, management, performance, guide, guidance, everything, transform, decision
To examine which leadership styles are used by leaders to achieve success in multicultural virtual project team, handling, virtual, members, success, successful, variation, culture, cultural, lead by example, leading by example, level-headed leadership, communicate
To examine which leadership styles are most effective in the multicultural virtual project democratic, situational, transactional, charismatic, transformational, servant


Table 2 Deductive codes


4.3 Themes identified

The categorised codes were used to generate the following themes to match with the research objectives:

  • Significance of leadership roles
  • Leadership styles used by leaders
  • Leadership capabilities required


4.3.1 Significance of leadership roles

During the classification process of code, two sub-themes associated with the importance of leadership roles were spawned. These were conflict management and leadership support. Leadership support is an extensive sub-theme that requires support, guidance, mentoring, coaching and several other types of support systems that leaders can provide their team. Leadership support is beneficial in multicultural virtual teams because it is a challenge when you are dealing with people across regions as mentioned by leader 1. While leader 2 seemed particular in setting team expectations and managing on strength of team members. He also admitted the possibility of misunderstanding in multicultural virtual teams and stated that he tries to steer the team in the direction of doing the same thing. Similarly, leader 3 also talked about giving advice, mentoring, setting expectations, and preparing the team for the environment. All three subordinates also acknowledged leadership support in one way of the other. For example, a quote from subordinate 2 states:

Yeah, so he would teach you, he would guide you, he would show you, he would show you how it all goes. And he would guide you to do everything more efficiently.

Subordinate 1 says:

And then they hired Robb, few months later and then as we started growing, we hired a few more people. And then they decided we did need a kind of a production manager.

Subordinate 3 also felt that the necessity of leadership in making sure that his employees are happy, put them through, listen to them and support them.

On asking about conflict resolution, both subordinates 1 and 2 admitted going to seniors or team lead for resolving conflicts. Following is the excerpt from subordinate 1s interview transcript:

I usually I talk with that for a little but about it just to get some information. But then I also try to bring it up with whoever their superior might be, either Robb or Vincci or Brian.

Subordinate 2 sounded a bit uncertain on this. He mentioned: Yeah, going to someone like your team lead, thats an option, but going to that sort of person.

Participants unanimously indicated that virtual environments had both strengths and weaknesses; a few primary drawbacks were loss of communication, trust issues, language or cultural barriers, connectivity issues, and lack of visibility. Nonetheless, no participant directly related leadership to resolving these issues, they all mentioned the importance of guiding team members, communicating with them, training members over zoom or other platforms, and addressing cultural or language barriers. Leader 3 explicitly mentioned that leadership needs to have more structure. For instance, the need for training material is essential for creating a good training structure as the nature of the business is detail oriented. While leader 2 feels the need to enhance team members work-life balance.

So, trying to be more accommodating of peoples work life balance

One of the best aspects was that job experience was unrelated to their leadership seeking perception. Subordinate 1 who is the senior-most participant with 18 years of company experience also indicated the significance of leadership in various aspects, ranging from communication and employee growth. Specifically, leaders were identified as significant for:

  • Setting clear expectations
  • Communicating with employees
  • Handling conflict
  • Providing guidance and motivation
  • Coaching and mentoring employees


4.3.2 Leadership styles used by leaders

This theme originated from linking different leadership terms comprising democratic, servant, charismatic, transformational, situational, and transactional.


Indication of ambivalence

Participants more closely associated themselves with democratic leadership style, but four out of six indicated they did not know the meaning of the leadership terms. Leader 1 used probably democratic while leader 2 clearly mentions that he did not know the meaning of the terms. Leader 3 also stated, probably land personally in democratic, and subordinate 2 said, I think it is democratic. However, their description explained that they were close to the democratic style only, and confusion was because of their unawareness of terminology.


Democratic style

Leader 1 associated himself with democratic style primarily but also indicated that it was a mix of transactional and situational at times. Leader 2 found him being closer to situational and sometimes transactional style. Leader 3 associated him with a democratic leadership style; he also mentioned his servant role. All three subordinates considered their leaders as democratic leaders and subordinate 2 also mentioned that his manager who is leader 3 sometimes is transformational. Thus, the democratic style remained a prevalent theme in all participants and additionally leadership styles like situational, transactional, servant and transformational were also mentioned by the respondents.

The democratic style is also known as participative leadership, where leaders allow members to participate in decision-making. Leaders do not micromanage or dictate their instructions; instead, they provide enough space for employees to grow professionally. A quote from leader 1s response stated:

If you give people in the democratic leadership style, if you give people enough space to let them develop, they will naturally become supporters of doing things for the benefit of the company. So, I dont think that needs to be hammered into peoples head from the beginning. So definitely democratic, mixed in with some of the situational and transactional leadership, those thats probably defined by style.

Leader 3 stated that he likes to take a hands-off approach and wants employees to figure out things independently. I give them the space but support them if they need it. He also indicated assuming a servant role because he preferred to stay after work on Sunday if anyone needed further support. He desires to create a feeling of togetherness by listening to employees and their concerns. The following lines further reveal his leadership style in more detail:

I am more kind of want to show you like, how we can work together, create that, that that feeling of we are in this together. I have more experience than you, but I am not above you in any way, I have more responsibility than you. And thats the real difference between myself and members of my team is I am responsible for you. And I am responsible for how well you do and how good you feel. And the things that you dont know, thats on my shoulder and not on your shoulders. So, I will fill in those gaps, so its yeah, for me, its about taking that accountability for the team, rather than blaming them when they dont know something. I think thats more my leadership style.

Subordinate 1 expressed that the overall leadership style in the organisation was democratic only because leaders usually employ a very low interfering approach, and nobody watches them over the shoulder. Subordinate 2 also mentioned that leader 1 who is his top manager is democratic because you will never hear from him again until you mess up massively.

Situational leadership style

Leaders 1 and 2 give a slight indication of situational leadership style. It means that they would prefer to handle people according to different situations they might encounter at the workplace or different competencies of their team members. While leader 1 just mentioned the term, leader 2 further elaborated it a lot. Some lines from his interview claim:

I guess if I had to say its probably mix of more democratic and situational. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, I try to manage peoples strengths. Some people might require more hand holding on tasks, other with other people, I can take a more hands off approach. I also try to lead by example.


Transactional and other leadership styles

This style depends on rewards and punishments that are rewarding employees for excellent performance and vice versa. Leader 1 and 2 used this term but did not elaborate on what it meant for them and how they used it. Servant leadership means serving followers and prioritising their needs. Leader 3 indicates that he employs servant leadership when he stays after work when someone else needs.


4.3.3 Leadership capabilities required

This theme was generated by using various codes, , communication, and lead/leading by example.


Lead / leading by example

Four out of six participants that are all the three leaders and subordinate 3 mentioned the phrase, lead or leading by example. This phrase is significant in the leadership literature and has been recognised as a part of effective leadership. It means that leaders should guide and influence their team through their behaviours, not words alone. They should act as role models for their members as it helps in motivating others and manages their strengths. Here are some lines mentioned by the participants:

Leader 1 says I think its incredibly important to be down in the trenches, so to speak with your employees and lead by example. So dont think putting undue stress on employees is a good way to lead.

Leadership to me means leading by example. So, I cant ask somebody to do something, if I dont want to do it myself, for instance, it also means to listen to the people that youre working with, and to know what theyre best at said subordinate 3.


Level-headed leadership

Subordinate 1 mentioned that good leaders need to be level-headed. They should structure things well and be clear on what needs to be done. The term level-headed is often used to imply someone balanced, calm, and not overly reactive. It shows the ability to handle challenging workplace conditions with resilience. He further states that:

But if you have a level-headed leadership, that you know, assigns tasks, gives you the time to do those tasks, gives freedom to do those tasks, and then lends help when needed. And I think thats a sign of a good leader.

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