Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-Managing Global Information Technology Teams

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While software development teams are becoming more and more distributed around the globe, most software development methodologies also prescribe self-managing teams. Transformational leadership is the key to successful information systems development
  Eseryel, U.Y., and Eseryel, D. Accepted. "Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-Managing GlobalInformation Technology Teams," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems  .   1   ACTION-EMBEDDED TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP INSELF-MANAGING GLOBAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT TEAMSU. Yeliz Eseryel, University of Groningen  Deniz Eseryel, University of Oklahoma  ABSTRACT While software development teams are becoming more and more distributed around the globe,most software development methodologies also prescribe self-managing teams. Transformationalleadership is the key to successful information systems development and use for competitiveadvantage. Yet, little is known about transformational leadership in self-managing globalinformation systems development team settings. This study answers the research question of howleaders emerge and strategically influence systems development in self-managing globalinformation systems development teams. This question is answered with a grounded theory studyof Apache Open Source Software development teams. A theoretical model of action-embeddedtransformational leadership is developed to demonstrate how leaders emerge and strategicallyinfluence systems development efforts through their leadership, which is embedded in their work-related actions. Keywords : IS development for competitive advantage; self-managing team; global team; OpenSource Software; transformational leadership; action-embedded leadership; IS developmentteam; self-managing virtual IS development; FLOSS; OSS; effectiveness; vision transformation; IMPORTANT NOTE: This is one of the earlier drafts of this paper. The latest and the most complete version will beavailable at the JSIS Journal website and available through your university subscription. Thecurrent citation for this paper is provided in the header section. For referencing in your  publications, please email the first author to learn the latest citation as the latest version of this paper becomes available for readers.  Eseryel, U.Y., and Eseryel, D. Accepted. "Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-ManagingGlobal Information Technology Teams," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems  .   2 INTRODUCTION This study investigates how emergent leaders strategically influence systemsdevelopment in self-managing global information systems development teams (SMG-ISDTs) through transformational leadership. Self-managing teams are groups of interdependent individuals who have the collective authority and responsibility of managing and performing relatively whole tasks to achieve group goals (De Jong et al.,2004). Transformational leaders generate awareness and acceptance among followerstoward group goals. Transformational leadership exists when leaders move their followers to go beyond their own self-interests for the good of the group (Burns, 1978).Transformational leadership enables IS development for competitive advantage by generating an innovative IS climate (Leidner et al., 2010; Watts and Henderson, 2006)and by contributing to business-IS alignment (Chan and Reich, 2011) thus increasingorganizational performance (Chan and Reich, 2011; Leidner et al., 2010). This is in linewith the arguments that the real sources of IS-based competitive advantage are thecomplementary capabilities, including the transformational IS leadership (Keen, 1993;Mata et al., 1995; Peppard and Ward, 1999; Powell and Dent-Micallef, 1997).Human resource issues associated with information systems are pertinent tostrategic information systems field and have often been addressed in JSIS (Galliers et al.,2012). Our study concentrates on the complementary human capability of transformational leadership in enabling global IS development for competitive advantage.We believe that leadership supports the process of IS enablement of competitiveadvantage, which is one of the research areas in the strategic information systemsresearch (Gable, 2010). Our view is similar to the views adopted by previous JSISauthors interested in the use of IS for competitive advantage: For example, Andreu andCiborra (1996) developed an organizational learning model to describe how ITapplications can contribute to core capabilities development, therefore to competitiveadvantage. They suggested that managers could improve this IT transformation process by adopting certain leadership behaviors such as nurturing the learning process, andfostering a climate of sharing work practices. Similarly, Dehning and Stratopoulos (2003)found that companies with superior leadership skills are more likely to sustain IT-enabledcompetitive advantage. Likewise, in their conceptual paper, Peppard and Ward (2004)suggested that management of IT enables organizations to derive and leverage valuethrough IT on an ongoing basis. While these researchers focused on organizations withformal managerial structures, in this study, we focus on novel organizational forms wheresuch managerial structures may not be available, as explained below. In the remainder of this paper, we use the term information systems rather than  strategic information systems ,while acknowledging that information systems have the potential to provide competitiveadvantage together with complementary transformational leadership.In this study, we examined transformational leadership within self-managingglobal information system development teams (SMG-ISDT). In early 1990s, Lambert andPeppard (1993) had estimated a move towards newer organizational forms characterized by self-managing teams. Furthermore, they had contended that these novel teams wouldrequire newer types of leadership that challenge traditional organizational assumptions.In recent years, with the flattening of organizations and increasing globalization (Oshri etal., 2007), there is indeed a move towards self-managing global (SMG) information  Eseryel, U.Y., and Eseryel, D. Accepted. "Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-ManagingGlobal Information Technology Teams," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems  .   3 systems development teams. The leadership of these teams tends to be emergent rather than top-down (Carmel and Sawyer, 1998). Yet, emergent IS leadership is under-studied(Avolio et al., 2000; Kahai et al., 2003). SMG-ISDTs have globally distributed memberswith a high degree of decision-making autonomy and behavioral control (adapted fromManz and Sims Jr, 1980). These groups are increasingly common in IS development(Carmel and Sawyer, 1998). Yet, despite what the term  self-managing  seems to indicate,self-managing teams may have external leaders or formal or informal administrativeroles, which may not be viewed by the team members as a management role. In fact,much self-managing team research focuses on external leadership provided to theseteams (e.g., Cohen et al., 1996; Druskat and Wheeler, 2003; Kirkman and Benson, 1999;Manz and Sims Jr, 1987). Similarly, SMG-ISDTs may come in different organizationalforms: they may be standalone, they may reside in organizations or they may be cross-organizational. SMG-ISDT beneficiaries may include their participants, one or moreorganizations or a large community. Examples of SMG-ISDTs include Open SourceSoftware development teams, which range from fully voluntary teams to company-basedcommercial teams (Wasserman, 2009).The study of SMG-ISDTs’ transformational leadership is timely for three reasons.First, existing research is limited to co-located teams (Judge and Bono, 2000); thus, itmight transfer only partially to SMG-ISDTs due to the unique conditions of global teams(Carte et al., 2006; Hooijberg et al., 1997; Zhang and Fjermestad, 2006). Thereforefocused studies of transformational leadership in the SMG-ISDT environments areneeded (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002; Faraj and Sambamurthy, 2006; Yoo and Alavi, 2004;Zaccaro and Bader, 2003; Zhang and Fjermestad, 2006).Second, both strategic information systems literature and general transformationalleadership research typically investigates managers’ leadership. Peppard and Ward(1999) identify two main streams of leadership research in strategic information systemsliterature. One leadership stream examines the characteristics of the IS director or thechief information officer. The other leadership stream relates the role of chief executiveofficer to an organization’s IS-related activities. However, SMG-ISDTs depend onemergent leaders (Conger and Pearce, 2003). Hence, the findings in hierarchical settingsmay not be generalizable to non-hierarchical self-managing teams (Cummings, 1981;Hackman, 1986).Third, leadership research focuses on leadership outcomes (Cascio andShurygailo, 2003; Judge and Piccolo, 2004; Lowe et al., 1996); it does not explicate theleader emergence processes (Avolio et al., 2000; Kahai et al., 2003) and the influence processes (Balthazard et al., 2009) that are crucial to selection, training, and developmentof team members.This study was intended to address these research gaps by investigating thefollowing research questions: (1) How do leaders emerge as transformational leaders inSMG-ISDTs? (2) How do leader behaviors influence team outcomes?  THEORETICAL BACKGROUND In this section, we first discuss the unique nature of leadership in IS developmentteams, which are increasingly becoming globalized. In an effort to address the unique  Eseryel, U.Y., and Eseryel, D. Accepted. "Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-ManagingGlobal Information Technology Teams," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems  .   4 leadership challenges, we introduce transformational leadership theory. Consequently, we provide a critical look at the transformational leadership literature and identify anduniquely combine other literature streams, which may address the gaps in thetransformational leadership literature. IS Development Teams and Leadership While leadership plays a crucial role in determining the success of ISdevelopment in organizations (Irani et al., 2005; Ravichandran, 2000; Thong et al., 1996;Wixom and Watson, 2001), IS leadership has both similarities to and unique differencesfrom leadership in other settings. IS development teams are cross-functional, their members bring multidisciplinary knowledge, their work is characterized by time pressures, and their outcomes must be adaptive to changing stakeholder expectations, business and technology conditions (Faraj and Sambamurthy, 2006, p. 239). Some mayargue that these team characteristics may overlap with other types of teams. Yet, ISdevelopers inhabit a unique occupational subculture (Guzman, 2006; Guzman et al.,2004) and they operate in a setting where the project failure rate is so high that failure isseen as inevitable (Mahaney and Lederer, 2006). Furthermore, IS leaders require uniqueskills due to high task interdependence and reliance on expertise distributed around theglobe, which requires increasing dependence on global teams (Faraj and Sambamurthy,2006).Transformational leadership may provide the answer to these unique IS leadershipchallenges faced by multidisciplinary, global individuals operating under a uniquesubculture by using intellectual stimulation, promoting consideration of differentviewpoints and inspiring collective action to enhance group potency and effectiveness(Sosik et al., 1998). While transformational leadership is typically researched in formalorganizational contexts where the leaders and followers share the same geographicallocation, it may be possible to observe the type of communication, which is at the core of transformational leadership in global team settings. Transformational leaders influencefollowers with communication, through which they set a vision and high standards andincrease team cohesion (Bass et al., 2003), achieve team success (Waldman and Atwater,1994), reduce social loafing (Avolio et al., 2000), and increase member performance(Bass et al., 2003). Transformational leadership creates an innovative IS climate (Leidner et al., 2010; Watts and Henderson, 2006), contribute to business-IS alignment (Chan andReich, 2011), and increase organizational performance (Chan and Reich, 2011; Leidner etal., 2010). Podsakoff and colleagues (1990) identified six types of transformationalleadership behaviors. These are articulating a vision for the group, being an appropriaterole model  , fostering the acceptance of group goals , creating high performanceexpectations , providing individualized support  and intellectual stimulation to teammembers (Podsakoff et al., 1990).  Eseryel, U.Y., and Eseryel, D. Accepted. "Action-Embedded Transformational Leadership in Self-ManagingGlobal Information Technology Teams," The Journal of Strategic Information Systems  .   5 A Critical Look at the Transformational Leadership Literature There are a few criticisms about the transformational leadership research,identifying the gaps in this literature stream. In trying to fill these gaps, we identify other relevant literature (namely the emergent leadership literature and self-managing teamliterature) to better inform this study.First, while IS researchers value and refer to transformational leadership, mosthave not explicitly researched it in IS settings other than few exceptions such as Neufeldet al. (2007), and Sosik et al.(1998). Neufeld et al. (2007) found a significant relationship between transformational leadership and performance expectancy, effort expectancy,social influence and facilitating conditions. Sosik et al. (1998) examined the effects of transformational leadership on group potency and effectiveness in group decision supportsystems use. They found that higher levels of transformational leadership promotedhigher levels of group potency and effectiveness. This effect depended on the levels of task interdependence.Second, while much research is conducted on how transformational leadersimpact followers, little research has been done to explain how transformational leadershipinfluences team processes and performance (Conger, 1999; Dionne et al., 2004; Yukl,1999). Among the few who attempted to explicate how transformational leaders influenceteam processes were Waldman and Atwater (1994), who asked interviewees whichfactors contributed to project success. Yet, while interviewees mentioned that lack of leader actions might hurt a project, they could not describe how transformational leaderscontribute to team performance. Similarly, Kahai et al. (2003) showed thattransformational leaders are able to keep participation and cooperation high, even whenthe members are anonymous, however, they did not explicate the process by whichleaders achieve. Thus, a research gap is exists regarding how transformational leadershipoperates in teams.Third, a critical look at transformational leadership research reveals an underlyingassumption that leaders are the managers with vision, who influence and equip their followers, in other words their subordinates, who in turn perform the work to achieveorganizational objectives (Yukl, 1999). The possibility that transformational leadersemerge informally, and that they also contribute to the work in achieving organizationalobjectives is eliminated by the usual research design employed for transformationalleadership, which consists of surveying subordinates about their managers. Therefore, aresearch gap exists in the study of transformational leadership in settings where leadersmay be informal and emergent, rather than formal managers and where the followers are peers rather than subordinates. Self-managing team literature may be combined with thetransformational leadership literature, in order to fill this research gap. Self-managingteam literature investigates groups of interdependent employees who have the collectiveauthority and responsibility of managing and performing relatively whole tasks (De Jonget al., 2004). While self-managing teams are important especially for information systemsdevelopment (Carmel and Sawyer, 1998), creating and leading such teams is a challenge(Moe et al., 2009) and participation may be resisted by the employees (Kirkman andShapiro, 1997). While transformational leadership studies focus on internal formalleaders, most studies of self-managing teams focus on how external formal leaders createcertain governance structures in order to foster a team’s self management (Wageman,2001). Key findings show how formal external leaders design their teams (Manz and
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