Emergent leadership in virtual collaboration settings: A social network analysis approach

Juliana Sutanto, Chuan Hoo Tan, Boris Battistini, Chee Wei Phang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Social software systems, such as virtual-worlds and chatrooms, present immense opportunities for companies today, allowing them leverage these systems to exploit the diverse knowledge and intelligence of their members and business associates, and thus respond more effectively in their increasingly competitive markets. This study seeks to advance our systematic understanding of the use of social software systems for knowledge-sharing practices in project work contexts, by attempting to identify and understand how leadership emerges in virtual collaboration settings to organize participants' interactions for effective outcomes. Two social software systems for virtual collaborations - one emergent (i.e., the Second Life 'virtual world') and another widely adopted (i.e., the text-based chatroom discussion system) -were examined via a series of empirical investigations employing hybrid research methodologies that entailed survey questionnaires within a set of field-based quasi experiments. Based on social network analysis results, we observed that the patterning of interactions i.e., the structure of a social network, is a significant predictor of a person being perceived as a leader by other virtual collaborators. The results show that the most effective emergent leaders are those who primarily assume a mediating rather than directing or monitoring roles during virtual collaborations, and that this is consistent across the two social software systems investigated. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-439
Number of pages19
JournalLong Range Planning
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


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