Self-managing virtual teams are increasingly becoming common in the workplace. While the name self-managing virtual teams, by definition seem to suggest teams without any formal leaders, this is not the case. While some of the self-managing virtual teams have no leaders, many others may have internal or external formal leaders. However, most of the self-managing team research focuses on the leadership that is provided to these teams by external formal leaders. With this research-in-progress study, we aim at explicating the role of all leaders, formal or informal, external or internal. Our research questions are: (1) Which behaviors do individuals manifest to emerge as informal leaders in self-managing virtual teams? 2) In what capacity do formal and informal leaders contribute to goal accomplishment in self-managing virtual teams? We conduct this research through semi-structured qualitative interviews of key informants from self-managing virtual teams.

Despite its abundance, traditional leadership research cannot be claimed to transfer directly to the leadership context of self-managing virtual teams. Unique conditions of these novel team environments require focused studies of leadership in virtual team settings. Thus, it is important to combine an inductive grounded theory approach with a deductive literature based approach. This combination allows for confirming which of the self-managing team leadership behaviors already exist in the literature, and identifying the leadership behaviors that do not apply to the SMV team setting, and eliciting behaviors that are only uniquely seen as leadership within the SMV team context. To this end, in this study, we use the research from traditional organizational leadership literature, self-managing team leadership literature and virtual team leadership literature as a way to categorize leader behaviors that are extracted from data based on inductive coding of the interviews.

This paper presents the overall study, its motivations, a brief overview of relevant literature and the research methods. The results and the discussion will be provided during the conference.