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Assessing interaction-frequency

Interaction frequency describes a repetitive communication behavior in a specific situation or an environment that a dyadic relationship is based on. Yet, a clear distinction is required from LMX theory, as interaction does not directly imply a well- established leader-follower relationship (Antonakis & Atwater, 2002, p. 687). Applied as a situational variable (Yukl, 1999), frequency of communication between leader and followers was found to influence the leader-follower relationship. The variable was repeatedly linked to moderation effects of (virtual) dyadic relationships and performance (e.g., Kacmar et al., 2003; Napier & Ferris, 1993). As the focus of the present study lies on the relationship quality between leaders and direct reports when working at great physical distance from one another, interaction frequency might be even more relevant in this context. It is assumed that most longdistance interaction is conducted via digital media and software. Antonakis and Atwater (2002) even argue to treat perceived interaction frequency as determinant of leader-follower distance, being defined as the “degree to which leaders interact with their followers” (p. 686).

Interaction frequency can be assessed by different items. Kirkman and colleagues (2004) suggest taking frequency of face-to-face meetings into account when studying virtual team leadership. The researchers assessed the number of face-to-face meetings with the question “How many times did your entire team meet face-to- face in the past year?” Using a sample of 254 distribution service employees, Kacmar et al. (2003) applied a four-item scale developed by McAllister (1995) allowing for responses on a seven-point Likert scale by asking questions such as “How often do you and your manager talk about work?” (pp. 765-766). Although the scale showed proper reliability (a = .85) it is still regarded as unsuitable for this research as the type of media channel is completely ignored.

Table 2 below summarizes the outcomes of the literature review systematically and supports a thor-ough overview of previous academic findings. Up to this point the main differences of distance leadership, e-leadership, and virtual leadership (with additional attention given to virtual teams) have been outlined. Furthermore, two key variables causing a context to be noted as distant (according to state-of-the-art work by Antonakis and Atwater, 2002) have been explained, namely physical distance and interaction frequency. Yet, distance, due to its multidimensional nature, is more than simply geographical distribution or the extent of communication. For this particular reason, and, considering that without explaining other dimensions of distance, this work would simply be incomplete, the sequences following the table briefly discuss other relevant forms of distance that have recently been considered in academic research.

Table 2. Leadership Behavior and Work-Related Outcomes: Effects of Physical Distance, Relationship Quality, and Interaction Frequency



Variables and Operationalization


Howell &





n1= 109(bank


Gender: 95% male A: 48 years Tenure: 25 years

n = 317 (employees)

G: 52% male A: 44 years Tenure: 20 years

IV: Transformational and transactional leadership,


DV: Follower performance CV: Length of time direct reports reported to a specific leader MV: Physical distance

LMX and active management-by-exception directly and positively predict follower performance

Transformational leadership is more effective in predicting follower performance under close conditions

Relationships between transformational, contingent reward, active and passive management-by-exception and follower performance are moderated by physical distance

Kayworth & Leidner


Europe, Mexico &


n = 13 (student teams)

IV: Leadership roles, perceived role clarity, communication effectiveness, communication satisfaction, extent of communication technology use, team effectiveness DV: Leader effectiveness

Leadership effectiveness is mostly related to mentoring abilities of leaders when acting in a virtual environment Results indicate effective leadership to be related to team members’ perceptions of effective communication, communication satisfaction, and the capability of leaders to establish role clarity among virtual team members



Variables and Operationalization


Hoyt & Blascovich



n = 144 (students) G: 58% male A: 19.26 years

IV: Transformational and



DV: Qualitative performance, self-efficacy, collective efficacy, trust in leaders, value congruence, leadership satisfaction, cohesiveness

Groups perform better quantitatively under transactional leaders (in both face-to-face and virtual teams)

Groups perform better qualitatively under transformational leadership (in both face- to-face and virtual teams)

Relationship between leadership style and group cohesiveness and leadership satisfaction are moderated by trust in leaders Followers express more trust in transformational leaders than in transactional leaders

Kelloway, Barling, Comtois & Gatien



n = 105 (students)

IV: Charisma, intellectual stimulation

DV: Individual performance, group performance, motivation

CV: Charisma, intellectual stimulation

Individuals are able to differentiate between different leadership styles when e-mails are exchanged

Aspects of transformational leadership can have an influence on task or attitude outcomes when electronic communication is applied

Individuals can detect and respond to different leadership styles even if only electronic communication is exercised

Kacmar, Zivnuska, Witt & Gully


n1 = 188 (distribution services industry)

Gender: 77% female

n = 59 (managers of a tax collection agency)

G: 37% female A: 42 years

n = 203 G: 47% female A: 46 years


DV: Job-performance ratings by managers

CV: Gender, age, minority status differences, organizational tenure, tenure with supervisor

MV: Communication frequency

LMX is positively related to performance ratings by supervisors

Frequency of communication moderates the relationship between LMX and job- performance ratings

In high LMX relationships, the more frequently supervisor and subordinates communicate with each other, the higher are job performance ratings

In low LMX quality relationships, the more frequently the two parties communicate, the more the job performance ratings decrease

Kirkman, Rosen, Tesluk & Gibson


n = 280 (35 teams in the travel industry)

G: 31% male A: 4% less than 25 years,

17% 26-35 years, 45% 36-45 years, 28% 46-55 years, 6% over 55 years Team tenure: 2.4 years

IV: Team empowerment DV: Process improvement, customer satisfaction CV: Team size, task interdependence

MV: Number of face-to-face meetings

At the individual level of analysis empowerment is positively linked to managerial performance, innovation, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment and negatively linked to turnover intentions To enhance virtual team process improvement and customer satisfaction managers should increase team empowerment Virtuality moderates the relationship between team empowerment and process improvement

Author (s)


Variables and Operationalization


Howell, Neufeld & Avolio



n1 = 101 (senior community-bank managers)

A: 48 years G: 97% male Tenure: 24 years

n = 308 branch managers G: 52% male A: 44 years Tenure: 24 years

IV: Transformational leadership, contingent reward leadership

DV: Business unit performance

CV: Leader-follower interaction, length of leader- follower relationship, leaders’ job tenure

MV: Physical distance

Transformational leadership positively predicts business unit performance Contingent reward leadership is not related to business unit performance Physical distance negatively moderates the effect of transformational leadership on business unit performance -under close conditions transformational leadership predicts business unit performance

-under distant conditions, transformational leadership does not predict business unit performance

Physical distance positively moderates the effect of contingent reward leadership on business unit performance




Wang &




n1 = 81 (leaders) G: 74% male A: 36 years Tenure: 10 years

n = 162 (followers)

Gender: 50% male A: 32 years Tenure: 8 years

IV: Transformational leadership

DV: Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), task performance

MedV: Leader-member exchange

Transformational leadership correlates positively with task performance and organizational citizenship behavior LMX shows similar results correlating with task performance and organizational citizenship behavior

LMX fully mediates the effects of transformational leadership on performance (for both task performance and organizational citizenship behavior)

Liden, Erdogan, Wayne & Sparrowe



n = 834 (120 teams and leaders)

Leaders G: 65.8% male Tenure: 13 years Position tenure: 3.34 years

Group members G: 56.1% male Tenure: 9.37 years Position tenure: 3.38 years

IV: Individual LMX, LMX differentiation

DV: Individual performance, group performance CV: Employee organizational tenure, leaders’ organizational tenure, organization, group size, average individual performance

MV: Individual LMX, LMX median, task interdependence

LMX differentiation does neither predict individual performance nor group performance

Individual LMX does positively predict individual performance

Individual LMX moderates the relationship between LMX differentiation and individual performance

For teams with high task interdependence, LMX differentiation positively predicts group performance

LMX median moderates the relation between LMX differentiation and group performance

For groups with a low median, LMX differentiation is positively and significantly related to team performance



Variables and Operationalization


Hambley, O’Neill & Kline (2007b)


n = 228 (undergraduate students) G: 87% female A: 23.8 years

IV: Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, communication media DV: Team constructive interaction, task performance, team cohesion

The impact of leadership style on constructive team interaction is not significantly dependent on the type of communication media Interaction between leadership style and communication medium on team cohesion does not result in significant outcomes Richer media has positive influence on constructive team interaction Face-to-face teams show higher constructive interaction than chat teams Teams do not interact defensively by using less rich media

Face-to-face and videoconferencing result in higher team cohesion than communication through less rich media Task performance is not predicted by the use of different communication media



International n = 100 G: 76% male A: 36 years Tenure: 7 years Tenure with leader: 25.05 months Tenure with distant leader: 18.33 months

IV: Spatial distance, relationship distance, cultural distance

DV: Leadership effectiveness MedV: Task orientation, team member orientation, use of incentivized compensation, usage of rich communication media

Spatial distance and cultural distance show indirect effects on leadership variables

Spatial distance influences relationship distance positively

Cultural distance reveals positive effects on relationship distance

Relationship distance reports a strong negative association with leadership effectiveness

Among the three distance components, relationship has the strongest effects and to act as essential tie in a working distant leader-follower relationship

Golden & Veiga (2008)

n = 375 (spend 25% of their work virtually)

G: 55% male A: 42 years Virtual work exp.: 20 months


DV: Organizational commitment, job satisfaction, job performance

CV: Gender, dyad tenure, tenure as virtual worker MV: Degree of virtual work

Team members with high LMX relationships show higher organizational commitment when working frequently in virtual mode compared to those whose virtual work is limited

Members with low quality LMX relationships display less commitment when working frequently virtually compared to those with less virtual work

Virtuality moderates the influence of LMX on job satisfaction

For high LMX members, job satisfaction is highest when working frequently virtually

For team members with low LMX relationships, job satisfaction is lower when working more virtually

Degree of virtuality moderates the link between LMX and job performance

Job performance is higher when working at a high degree of virtuality, irrespective of LMX quality

Author (s)


Variables and Operationalization


Mayer, Keller, Leslie & Hanges (2008)


n1 = 185 employees (38 groups)

n2 = 904 employees (195 departments)

IV: Individual LMX DV: Job satisfaction, organizational commitment, competence perceptions, group identification, organizational citizenship behavior, deviance, performance MV: Coworkers’ LMX

Coworkers’ LMX moderates the relationship between individual LMX and job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and perceptions of competence Relationships are stronger when coworkers’ LMX is high

Outcomes are more promising when individual and coworkers’ LMX are constant

Joshi, Lazarova & Liao


USA, France, Germany, UK, The Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Korea, Australia n = 171 (41 teams of service employees of a Fortune 500 multinational company) G: 73% male Tenure: 5 years Team tenure: 2 years

IV: Inspirational leadership, team dispersion DV: Commitment to the team, trust in team members, team performance CV: Employee tenure in the organization, tenure in the team, employee age, gender, overall team size, level of face-to-face interaction

By cultivating socialized relationships with team members, inspirational leaders are able to foster attitudes directed at the collective team entity

Inspirational leaders are important in all contexts but are more important in highly dispersed contexts

In highly dispersed settings, leaders can be the critical link for facilitating commitment and trust

Trust and commitment may be key mechanisms by which individuals can overcome physical distance and enhance team effectiveness

Inspirational leadership is found to be facilitating in dispersed work settings

The importance of self-management in teams is often emphasized, yet the results of this study imply certain aspects of leadership to have a pivotal role for influencing important outcomes in dispersed settings

Carter, Jones- Farmer, Armena- kis, Field &



United States n = 228 (alumni)

IV: Transformational leadership

DV: Organizational citizenship, task performance CV: Dyad tenure, unit size, supervisor tenure, follower tenure

MedV: Interactional justice, LMX

LMX and interactional justice are found to be distinct concepts reflecting elements of leader-follower relationships LMX and interactional justice form mutual relations

LMX and interactional justice explain variances of each other accounting for being aspects of the leader-follower relationship Transformational leadership stimulates leader- follower dyadic relationships Followers are able to interpret relationships and the quality of their leader-follower relationship does impact job performance



Variables and Operationalization


Davis & Bryant



n1 = 52 (university administrators) n = 96 (directors of Industry/ University Cooperative Research Centers

IV: LMX, Trust DV: Satisfaction, commitment to research center MedV: Research center performance

Research center performance fully mediates the relationship between LMX and satisfaction with the research center Research center performance fully mediates the relation between trust and satisfaction with the research center Research center performance fully mediates the relationship between trust and satisfaction with the research center Research center performance predicts satisfaction and commitment to the research center LMX and trust do not mediate any relationship

Neufeld, Wan & Fang (2010)

Canada n1 = 41 leaders G: 85% male A: 35.9 years Tenure: 89.9 months

n2 = 138 followers G: 55% male A: 35.8 years Tenure: 86.8 months

Tenure with leader: 23.6 months

IV: Transformational leadership, transactional contingent reward leadership, physical distance

DV: Leadership performance CV: Length of leader- follower relationship, follower job tenure, leader-follower interaction frequency MedV: Communication effectiveness

Results confirm a significant positive link between transformational leadership behavior and perceived leadership performance

The relationship between transactional contingent reward leadership and performance is not supported

Physical distance has neither influence on leadership performance nor communication effectiveness

Physical distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to effective leadership

Leadership is positively linked to communication effectiveness for both transformational and transactional contingent reward leadership

Communication effectiveness is linked to perceived leadership performance

Communication effectiveness is a significant mediator of transformational and transactional contingent reward on leadership performance

Andressen, Konradt &



International n1 = 116 team leaders

n2 = 681 employees (129 teams) G: 59% male A: 36 years

IV: Transformational leadership

DV: Self-leadership, motivation, affective commitment items, job performance MV: Virtuality (frequency of computer-mediated communication and physical distance)

Results suggest that self-leadership acts as a process factor that determines motivation Team leader virtuality has moderating effects on the relation between transformational leadership and self-leadership Transformational leadership has a lower influence on self-leadership in virtual team settings, where the team leader works physically distant from the team members Self-leadership has a higher influence on motivation in virtual work structures than in co-located work structures

Author (s)


Variables and Operationalization


Kelley & Kelloway (2012)

n = 402 G: 48.8% male A: 67% between 30 and 50 years

IV: Perceived control, regularly scheduled communication, unplanned communication, prior knowledge DV: Job satisfaction, organizational commitment, manager trust

CV: Age, gender MedV: Transformational leadership

For the remote sample transformational leadership predicts job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and manager trust Transformational leadership is predicted by perceived control, regularly scheduled communication, unplanned communication, and prior knowledge For the proximal group perceived control and unplanned communication are associated with perceptions of transformational leadership

Correlations in the proximal and distant sample vary in strength indicating that contextual factors are not as important in a close setting

Hoch &



International n = 565 team members (101 virtual R&D teams)

Followers G 77.1% male A: 37 years Team tenure: 4.18 years

Leaders G: 89.1% male Tenure: 4.23 years

IV: Hierarchical leadership (transformational leadership, LMX, career mentoring), structural support (reward systems, communication and information), shared team leadership (cognitive team learning, affective team support, behavioral member- member exchange)

DV: Team performance CV: Gender, age, task interdependence, number of projects a team member was working on

MV: Team virtuality (geographic distribution, electronic communication, cultural background)

Influences of hierarchical leadership diminish when teamwork is conducted predominantly virtual

At increasing levels of virtuality, structural supports such as reward systems and communication and information are more strongly related to team performance than hierarchical leadership

Shared team leadership predicts positive team performance, regardless of the level of virtuality

Note. IV = independent variable, DV = dependent variable, CV = control variable, MV = moderating variable, MedV = mediating variable; demographic variables reflect averages, G = gender, A = age

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