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Research Objectives

The present work adds in multiple theoretical and empirical respects to current leadership research. First, it contributes to leadership literature by providing a substantial foundation for distance leadership literature. Second, it empirically tests the influence of leadership behavior on followers’ work-related outcomes in a context of physical distance. In this regard, the influences of relationship quality and interaction frequency on the leader-follower relation are explored. Thus far, leading from a distance has been widely disregarded by scholars and received attention only by a few researchers (e.g., Antonakis & Atwater, 2002; Cole et al., 2009; Howell & Hall-Merenda, 1999; Howell, Neufeld & Avolio, 2005; Kerr & Jermier, 1978; Napier & Ferris, 1993; Yagil, 1998). Yet, many of these publications are conceptual in nature and fail to provide empirical evidence.

For the first time, recent leadership theory is conceptualized, leadership behaviors are discussed, and challenges and benefits of distance leadership are explicated. Potential moderating and mediating influences on the leader-follower relationship are investigated and predictors for work-related outcomes in geographically dispersed settings are outlined. Academic journal articles are evaluated according to their contribution to the current state of research. Discussing the role of AIT in a distance work context, this research identifies key collaboration tools that may facilitate communication in corporations. In the process of this work, leadership theory is reviewed and an imperative position is occupied by definitions of distance dimensions recently used in research. Particular interest is attached to distinguishing terminologies such as distance leadership, virtual leadership, and e-leadership. Whereas in some cases the terms virtual team, mobile workforce, and virtual workgroup are used interchangeably (e.g., Criswell & Martin, 2007; Welch, Worm & Fenwick, 2003), other researchers prefer a rather strong differentiation (Gluesing & Riopelle, 2010).

Second, this research makes innovative use of the Full Range Leadership Model which, previously, has often only partially been applied and with a strict focus on transformational and transactional leadership. Both behaviors have often been considered when investigating the effect of leadership behavior on follower outcomes (e.g., Balthazard, Waldman & Warren, 2009; Gupta, Huang & Yayla, 2011; Sosik, Godshalk & Yammarino, 2004). Consideration and empirical examination of the entire model is rare in leadership research. Following the nature of laissez-faire leadership behavior, the dimension of passive leadership is frequently disregarded. Previous literature indicates that Full Range Leadership supplies leadership behav?iors that are likely to influence follower self-leadership (Yun, Cox & Sims, 2006a) and performance (Kahai & Avolio, 2008; Walumbwa, Avolio & Zhu, 2008).

The third and central purpose of this work is to empirically determine moderation or mediation effects of physical distance, relationship quality, and interaction frequency in the leader-follower relationship. It is expected that physical distance, relationship quality, and interaction frequency will assume a reinforcing position in distant leader-follower relations.

Findings are projected to confirm the assumption that physical distance negatively affects the influence of transformational and transactional leadership on follower self-leadership and performance. If triggers for enhanced self-leadership and performance in a distance work environment rest within transformational and/or transactional behaviors, this dissertation would provide evidence for the necessity of transformational and transactional leadership behaviors that are particularly essential in a context of physical distance. In addition, high quality relationships are projected to be the tying bond between leaders and followers in international corporations. Interaction frequency is expected to take on an augmenting position, providing favorable outcomes in the leader-follower relation. From the results extracted by this work, targeted trainings could be developed in order to strengthen the beneficial aspects of distance leadership.

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