Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14021038 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Global Virtual Team Leadership Scale (GVTLS) Development
in Multinational Companies
Sema Nur Batırlık 1, Yasin Galip Gencer 1 and Ulas Akkucuk 2,*
1 Department of International Trade and Finance, Yalova University, Yalova 77200, Turkey;
firstname.lastname@example.org (S.N.B.); email@example.com (Y.G.G.)
2 Department of Management, Bogazici University, Istanbul 34342, Turkey
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: As a result of developments in technology, globalization and digitalization, virtual teams
have become indispensable for many industries. Transformations in information and communica-
tion technology have provided new opportunities for businesses to create and manage virtual
teams. Today, all organizations have had to introduce new methods of communication and have
started to continue their conversations through digital platforms. It has become inevitable for teams
to form in such virtual environments. Virtual team members are made up of individuals from dif-
ferent genders, experiences, cultures and geographic locations. While there are leaders in virtual
teams as in face-to-face environments, this type of leadership performs its function through infor-
mation and communication technologies, unlike traditional types. Although there are many studies
on face-to-face leadership in academic studies and despite the increasing use of digital platforms, it
is observed that there is a need for studies on leadership styles in virtual organizations. The main
purpose of this study is to create a scale about leadership characteristics in virtual teams. With the
present study, it is aimed to develop a valid and reliable scale in order to discover and analyze the
virtual team leadership characteristics of individuals within the multinational companies. During
the scale development process, literature review, focus group interviews and statistical analysis
were used to create the items to be included in the scale. First of all, focus group discussions were
conducted by examining the scale developments on the leadership phenomenon. A total of three
focus group interviews were held; expert opinions were used to ensure the content validity of the
results, and a draft scale with 29 items was created as a result.
Keywords: multinational company; virtual team; leadership; scale development;
virtual team leadership
With the rapid advances in technology, communication technology has developed
and the level of communication has increased through virtual communication tools. In
the current state of the world, individuals, regardless of status, access and use the data
they want thanks to information and communication technologies. The increase in the
rate of digitalization in the world has increased the communication levels of individuals
in different regions. In the last couple of years of the 20th century, with the beginning of
the personal computer era, businesses have also adapted to this technological progress
resulting in positive aspects and developments such as opening a new business, saving
time, not being bound by borders, and minimizing geographical distances.
Businesses have to cope with dynamic, constantly changing and complex environ-
ments, and this brings countless challenges. Commercial concerns in the new economic
environment where the competitive conditions have changed cause a tendency to create
different organizational designs that can meet the needs of the new age. Research shows
that organizations need to bring the right people together at the right time to accomplish
Citation: Batırlık, S.N.; Gencer, Y.G.;
Akkucuk, U. Global Virtual Team
Leadership Scale (GVTLS)
Development in Multinational
Companies. Sustainability 2022, 14,
Academic Editor: Ilsang Ko and
Received: 15 December 2021
Accepted: 13 January 2022
Published: 17 January 2022
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neu-
tral with regard to jurisdictional
claims in published maps and institu-
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Li-
censee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and con-
ditions of the Creative Commons At-
tribution (CC BY) license (http://crea-
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 2 of 20
certain tasks. At this point, virtual teams have emerged in order to keep up with the needs
of the new era.
Virtual teams have been mentioned as early as the 1960s in the US . Such teams
allow organizations to work with individuals in different locations, saving on installation,
maintenance and travel costs. With the widespread use of the Internet, virtual teams have
made it possible to reduce the barriers between groups in different regions in many coun-
tries of the world. Different definitions may be given for virtual teams. One definition
suggests that “virtual teams are distributed work teams whose members are geograph-
ically dispersed and coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information
and communication technologies (e-mail, video-conferencing, telephone, etc.)” . Vir-
tual teams are more important nowadays as the global pandemic has forced many people
to work from home even if the locations are very close. In addition, virtual teams allow
team members from different countries to collaborate on projects. With the advent of vir-
tual teams the concept of virtual team leadership has also developed. In order to increase
the effectiveness of organizations in the new environment that has arisen as a result of
globalization and technological developments, independent of time, place and geograph-
ical boundaries, virtual team leadership has emerged together with virtual teams .
The importance of virtual teams is far too great to be underestimated for effective
and efficient communication among the members of multinational companies working in
different regions. Virtual teams, which have many advantages such as personnel diver-
sity, flexible organizational structure and innovation resource allocation, are widely used
in many areas such as out-of-service resource use, R&D and information technologies .
Virtual teams cross cultural, geographical and organizational boundaries, allowing busi-
nesses to be a part of strategic and global projects.
Due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that affected the world as of 2019, es-
pecially at the global level, it has been realized that there are very important changes and
transformations in educational practices, economy and social life [5–7]. At this point, it
can be seen that the importance and necessity of virtual teams has increased. Multina-
tional companies are among the organizations that use virtual teams more actively in the
current period than in the past. While there is a central control system for all departments
in such companies, it is important that these departments follow policies related to each
other and that there are organizations that control small company units in other countries
. Multinational corporations are organizations that have branches, companies and part-
ners which are different from the central management. Branches and small company
structures located in different places and those located in the headquarters act in harmony
. While the sale of the products and services that are produced starts and ends within
the same organization, the distribution and marketing of the goods is done by the organ-
izations affiliated to these companies . Multinational companies, which are said to as-
sume the leading role of the developing and changing world, have an important mission
in economic activities. The reason why they are constantly expanding and increasing their
power is that production, consumption and the dominant capital is bound to spread be-
tween countries . With the increase in technological developments, multinational com-
pany structures have had the opportunity to dramatically increase in number. These types
of companies, which reduce communication and distribution costs, have divided the pro-
duction process into parts with technological development. Thus, the spread of this com-
pany type around the world has been realized by ensuring that every possible produc-
tion/service-related process is realized in the different regions.
The aim of this research is to explain virtual teams and the concept of virtual team
leadership, to learn the leadership perceptions of individuals who are employees of mul-
tinational companies in organizations held in virtual environments, and to develop a scale
about virtual team leadership. It is noteworthy that virtual environments are ignored in
studies dealing with the phenomenon of leadership in the literature. The subject of this
research is the type of leadership that is mostly ignored in today’s world where the level
of Internet use is high, people use virtual platforms to communicate, and businesses hold
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 3 of 20
meetings or trainings on these platforms. With this research, it is aimed to fill the gap in
the academic literature by defining virtual team leadership and developing a scale on it
which is to be called the “GVTL Scale-GVTLS”.
In the next section of the study a multidimensional framework will be developed
about virtual teams and leadership in virtual teams, following that the next section will
present and describe focus group interviews and the pilot study, which are data collection
tools for the study. At this stage, as a result of examining the leadership scales in the liter-
ature, focus group interviews, which are among the qualitative research methods, were
used in order to create the expressions to be used for the focus groups study. Expert opin-
ions were used to ensure the content validity of the resulting statements. Afterwards, the
scale development process is explained along with the pilot study. The pilot application
is carried out with the participation of multinational company employees located in the
Marmara region of Turkey. Statistical analysis of the data obtained at the other stage was
made using the SPSS package program, and their validity and reliability degrees were
determined. Finally, the construct validity was listed by performing factor analysis and
the study was terminated. We present the full GVTLS scale with 29 elements in the results
section and present our discussion and conclusions as well.
2. Virtual Team Leadership: A Multidimensional Framework
Leadership exhibits a vital role in helping virtual teams overcome difficulties and
achieve sound benefits. Within the popular leadership literature, academics dealing with
virtual leaders have focused on two areas, namely leader behaviors and leader character-
istics . The classical two-dimensional framework dominated leadership research from
the 1950s to the 1970s. In recent years, the first of the two-dimensional framework that has
attracted the attention of academics is task-oriented leader behavior, while the other is
relationship-oriented leader behavior.
Task-oriented leader behaviors focus on determining the roles and responsibilities of
both the leader and team members, providing guidance to clarify and fulfill the objectives
of the tasks, and monitoring business processes. Research shows that task-oriented behav-
iors, such as establishing shared norms and articulating team structures, are associated
with virtual team success.
The relationship-oriented approach to leader behavior emphasizes the well-being of
members and supporting members, and the importance of establishing good relations be-
tween the leader and the members. Leaders with relationship-oriented leader behavior
attach importance to keeping good relations with employees, subordinates and team
members . Such a leader responds to the social needs of their employees by establish-
ing a sincere and natural relationship. Treating the members of the organization with re-
spect, paying attention to the members and valuing them form the basis of relationship-
oriented leader behavior. While Fiedler notes that the effective behavior of the leadership
can be realized according to the individual relations or the task, he also argues that the
two leadership structures cannot be effective all the time .
In the task-oriented leadership type, the priority of the leader is the task of ensuring
that the team members use the available resources effectively by performing the assigned
task on time and in place. In the relationship-oriented type of leadership, the leader fo-
cuses on establishing mutual relations with team members, helping his subordinates in
their duties, establishing team awareness and ensuring the personal development of em-
The task-oriented type leader clarifies and defines the roles of team members, and
establishes and supervises existing resources, organizational charts and communication
ways [16,17]. The leader in the relationship-oriented type strives to keep the morale and
desire of his employees high. Success in team building and sharing leadership with people
who accept the relationship-oriented leadership type are at a higher level than other lead-
ership types . According to research, it has been determined that the task-oriented
leadership type is widely and effectively used due to the centralized understanding of
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 4 of 20
Turkish managers, not assigning duties to subordinates unless necessary, not looking at
delegating authority, and the fact that the hierarchical order is clearly settled and accepted
In virtual teams, roles and responsibilities are mostly carried out through virtual
channels. This situation is different in geographically different working environments. It
reveals the importance of virtual cooperation, which expresses collective behaviors per-
formed by group members to facilitate effective communication with their friends. Virtual
collaboration, which is one of the most important processes within virtual teams, contrib-
utes to team performance .
In order to effectively lead a virtual team and increase its effectiveness, it is impera-
tive for leaders to manage conflict . Team conflict can be defined as the perception of
members about their individual differences, incompatibilities and irresoluble wishes and
desires . When there is team conflict, the type of conflict and the relationships differ
depending on whether they are related to tasks or processes .
While awareness of team members’ interpersonal otherness is considered as relation-
ship conflict, task conflict refers to the perceptions of members about their different views
about their role in the team. Process conflict, which is related to task conflict, arises ac-
cording to the members’ perception of differences in how they perform team tasks.
Studies show that relationship conflict almost always has a negative impact on the
functioning of the team . However, due to the different perspectives brought by the
members, a certain level of task conflict can be beneficial for team effectiveness . Rela-
tionship conflict is more likely to occur in virtual teams because individuals are more
likely to attribute behaviors that violate malfunctioning group processes to personal fac-
tors rather than situational factors in a virtual environment . Consequently, differences
seen as task conflict in a face-to-face team can be understood as relational conflict, which
ultimately hinders effective collaboration between members and emphasizes the signifi-
cance of leader behaviors focused on building virtual team relationships. Effective com-
munication can help prevent relationship conflicts. To encourage member communication
in virtual teams, leaders may think about holding face-to-face meetings and “virtual par-
ties”, establishing communication routines and activating accessible virtual communica-
tion channels as needed.
Leader behaviors that clarify member responsibilities and guide task coordination
help reduce task conflict and increase team effectiveness. In addition, leaders can hold
virtual conferences to avoid potential misunderstandings due to lack of communication.
Removing barriers to interpersonal relationships forms the basis of other team processes
. Therefore, to avoid task conflicts in virtual teams, leaders encourage using virtual
communication tools to elucidate task responsibility, enable task coordination and update
team members regarding everyone’s working status.
Due to the increasing hardship in influencing and motivating followers in a virtual
setting, investigators have found that leaders in a virtual environment can improve the
team’s self-management ability. They suggested focusing on development . Such self-
directed teams are believed to have shared leadership; this refers to a process in which
team members share responsibilities, mutually influence and direct each other, and rep-
resent a collaborative decision-making process . Unlike traditional hierarchical lead-
ership, shared leadership has a more lateral influence process rather than being up or
down and is a form of collective effort that increases team performance .
In the context of a virtual atmosphere, shared team leadership complements tradi-
tional hierarchical leadership and structural supports while affecting group operation
. In fact, leaders can enable the development of shared leadership inside the team,
while shared leadership can supplement formal leadership. Furthermore, the shared lead-
ership that occurs in virtual teams is best described as task leadership. As such, appointed
leaders still have the responsibility to build trusting relationships within virtual teams,
facilitating the emergence of shared leadership and enhancing team performance.
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 5 of 20
Task-oriented behaviors of leaders towards individuals increase the motivation of
members to put more effort in work-oriented activities. Specifically, leaders in virtual
teams can initiate private conversations with each member via instant messaging or phone
calls to understand their needs. Depending on members’ different local environments,
leaders may assist members in setting personalized business goals and establishing pro-
cedures for getting things done. Such behaviors of leaders are thought to be beneficial as
they increase follower self-efficacy and work motivation . Additionally, leaders may
be required to provide budget support, equipment and feedback to their members.
In addition to counseling and supporting each member’s duties, a virtual team leader
can increase followers’ love for them through relationship-oriented behaviors. The mes-
sages and behaviors of the leaders play an important role in the emotional reactions of the
members . In order to develop high-quality relationships with members, leaders can
go beyond helping team members by exchanging social/personal information with each
A solid underpinning must be constructed to achieve the most value and success
from virtual teams. As long as the three success conditions are met, the team will continue
to survive. The first of these conditions is the goal, the second is the clear definition of
leadership responsibilities, and the final is the creation of the right team culture . The
factors that stand out as the success conditions of virtual teams are as follows :
Continuity of trust effect.
Effective information management.
Leveraging and managing technology.
Cultural dynamics management.
Leadership influence and decent coaching.
Effective coordination mechanism.
Management of team performance.
Project management and empowerment of the employees.
In their study, Malhotra, Majchrzak and Rosen recognized six leadership practices
for effective leaders to master the challenges related to virtual teams. These are listed as
Build and maintain trust using communication technology.
Make sure that diversity is understood, appreciated and protected.
Manage meetings and virtual work cycle.
Observe team progress with technology support.
Increase the visibility of virtual members inside and outside the team.
Ensure that different participants of the virtual team benefit from the whole.
Focusing on the norms of how information is communicated, rethinking the commu-
nication model depending on team development (virtual meetups), and making progress
open using the virtual team workspace are the main ways to build and maintain trust
using communication technology. Creating a certain image, and protecting or changing
that image, is one of the long-term strategies . This strategy is achieved through com-
munication technology. The virtual team leader has to protect the personal data of the
team members, oversee the information of the employees and build trust with their mem-
bers. Virtual teams often consist of individuals with different personalities, interests, ex-
periences and communication styles. Therefore, the ability to benefit from the diversity of
the team depends on the extent to which these individual differences are understood, used
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 6 of 20
An effective virtual team leader understands and appreciates distributed diversity;
by creating virtual subgroups, using asynchronous electronic tools (e.g., electronic discus-
sion threads) and allowing different views to be expressed . Having virtual team meet-
ings is very important as it serves to keep its members energetic about their work and
synchronize with each other.
We can summarize certain ways virtual team leaders manage the virtual business
lifecycle and meeting. These could be listed as making use of the starting moment of vir-
tual meetings to create a social relationship, ensuring everyone’s participation and getting
news from them through various controls during the meeting, and allowing the minutes
and future work plan to be sent to the team members at the end of the meeting .
Virtual team leaders carefully observe the team’s online progress by evaluating elec-
tronic discussions, document submissions and involvement in virtual meetings. Progress
is also observed by evaluating the usage of information technology to back the team. Mon-
itoring team progress with the use of technology is possible by closely examining asyn-
chronous (electronic discussions and document submissions in the knowledge pool) and
synchronous communication models (virtual meeting participation and instant mes-
In addition, the researchers suggest a few more ways for effective virtual team lead-
ers to implement the above-mentioned practices. Since it is difficult to evaluate goodwill
in the virtual environment, it is seen that the feeling of trust in virtual teams is generally
based on actions rather than goodwill . Therefore, expectations for actions should be
Yücebalkan (2003) conducted his research based on the idea of new management,
which is becoming increasingly abstract . According to him, virtual management,
which is an understanding that responds to the needs of the world and breaks traditional
patterns, is intertwined with the concepts of abstract, non-simple, emotional, fuzzy and
variable. Yücebalkan composed his work in three parts; he discussed the concept of post-
modernism in the first part, the postmodern-oriented virtual organizations in the second
part, and the concept of leadership in virtual organizations in the last part. In the study of
the first part, the historical development of post-modernity was formed from its basic con-
cepts. Yücebalkan, who examined the weak and strong sides of virtual teams, post-mod-
ernist organizations that direct organizations to virtual organizations, and the systematic
components of virtual organizations in the second part; in the last section, the destruction
of the leader and team member component, the change of leadership style and virtual
organizations are analyzed. In addition, he materialized the features of virtual leadership
by defining virtual leadership as “synergic value that does not depend on the person or
people, exists with the interactive interaction of people with virtual leadership character-
istics and is revealed in the system”. The aim of this study is to reveal different perspec-
tives based on the perceptions and components of a small-scale team member in virtual
businesses on a global scale, based on the level of ownership, which includes the basic
characteristics of the virtual leadership type. He listed the findings in the survey study,
which could not reach generalizations and definite judgments in items.
In his study, Naktiyok  discussed the leaders who use the virtual path in the lead-
ership process in organizations and the leaders who do not use the virtual path in terms
of characteristics and attitudes. In his study, he examined the differences and similarities
between the traditional leader and the virtual leader. He analyzed the period when the
traditional economic system was replaced by the global economic system with the devel-
opment of information and communication technologies in terms of leaders, companies
and team members. He started the survey study with a meeting where leadership charac-
teristics could be discussed and invited the leaders of ten organizations.
At the end of the meeting, 73 different leader characteristics, attitudes and abilities
were determined by the answers of the ten leaders. Twenty-two leadership traits and
twenty leadership attitudes and abilities that leaders agreed upon were identified. In the
survey study, questions about whether the organizations are virtual organizations or not
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 7 of 20
were also included. As a result of the research, it has been determined that virtual leaders
are based on attitudes and abilities such as global ideas, sharing information, using tech-
nology, vision and decision making. On the other hand, it has been found out that those
traditional leaders have features such as stating the purpose, being sensitive to thoughts
and feelings and not compromising their values.
Maduka et al.  emphasized in their study that the use of virtual teams in the cur-
rent business world is increasing. They stated that leaders in virtual teams should be
aware of certain special competencies and that they should instill competencies in their
members. In this context, they conducted face-to-face structured interviews with 14 par-
ticipants in two virtual team groups, using a questionnaire designed after the literature
review, in order to determine the skills required for effective leadership in virtual teams.
The interviews were designed to illuminate the views and perceptions of virtual team
members according to the characteristics of virtual team leaders. The answers obtained
were analyzed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. According to the emerg-
ing findings, when considering virtual leadership competencies, it was concluded that
virtual team leaders do not perform well in general because they lack a few of the capa-
bilities essential for effective leadership in the context of a virtual team.
In their study, Çırpan and Yomralıoğlu  investigated how virtual teams have be-
come indispensable in global organizations with the intense use of technology. With the
coronavirus epidemic, which has been experienced since 2019, the effect of virtual teams
being the only way for the working environment has been stated in the research. They
analyzed leadership characteristics that affect high performance from the perspective of
the leader and team members. Qualitative data were obtained through interviews with
five virtual team leaders and five team members of ten people in separate organizations.
The main features of virtual teams for high performance are the effectiveness of commu-
nication, accessibility of infrastructure, trust in the team and clear definition of job de-
scriptions. In the study, it was emphasized that the harmony between team members who
are not from similar cultures is also important. Using content analysis, which is known as
a process that is blended with the improvement of multiple reality and personal percep-
tions, as data analysis, they initially chose to write the audio recordings. They used two
encodings, leaders and members, and carefully read the data for comprehensive opinion
analysis. By cross-checking the perspectives of organization members and leaders, they
accepted the common points of different experiences and perceptions as prominent fac-
tors for high-performance virtual teams. They determined the most important codes ac-
cording to hierarchical order. They reported the results with the consensus of the research-
3. Results of Focus Group Studies and Scale Development
In this research carried out in order to create a valid and reliable scale, which is dif-
ferent from the leadership scales existing in the academic literature, in a manner to focus
on global virtual environments, the item pool that forms the basis of the scale was pro-
duced by using focus group interviews and expert opinions in line with literature reviews.
After the item pool was produced, scale questions were developed, expert opinions were
sought, and a pilot application was conducted with 123 participants for multinational
company employees in the Marmara region of Turkey.
3.1. Focus Group Interviews
Focus group interviews are one of the methods commonly used in qualitative re-
search. Researchers argue that focus group interviews emerged because researchers
sought alternative new methods to overcome the deficiencies of traditional in-depth in-
terviews . According to Morgan, focus group discussion is a research technique in
which data is collected through group interaction on a subject determined by the re-
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 8 of 20
In the 1950s, focus group interviews were widely used in the business sector by mar-
ket researchers to evaluate consumer opinions about home appliances, develop brand
identity, design product packaging and measure marketing strategies . In the 1980s,
focus group studies began to emerge in social science research.
Focus group interviews, which are frequently used in exploratory research today, are
a qualitative information-gathering tool and a carefully planned discussion-interview
method in which qualitative and observational data are collected through group interac-
tion; it is carried out with small groups in order to obtain in-depth information and gen-
erate thoughts on a topic determined by the researcher, accompanied by a moderator, as
defined in [42,43]. Hennink and Hunter  developed a description of an interactive dis-
cussion between six and eight preselected participants focused on a specific topic, led by
a knowledgeable moderator. The purpose of focus group interviews is to obtain a wide
range of ideas about the research topic within 60–90 min and to form an environment in
which participants feel comfortable while articulating their views .
A typical focus group discussion consists of a small number of participants with the
guidance of a skilled moderator. In such interviews, the task of the moderator is to effec-
tively reveal the ideas and thoughts of the other group members participating in the in-
terview on the current topic. In his study, Krueger  recommends that the number of
people to be included in the focus group should not be more than seven in order to avoid
In this study, first of all, comprehensive research was conducted on the subject of the
scale to be developed. As a result of the researches and examinations, questions were de-
veloped to be used in focus group interviews. While paying attention to the clarity of the
open-ended questions, the order of the questions was made from general to specific. At
another stage, a focus group meeting was planned with the people who were asked to
participate. After the interviews were carried out at the predetermined place and time, the
audio and video recordings were analyzed and item analyses were carried out. After the
researcher’s item analysis, the item pool was finalized by using the opinions of three ex-
perts in the field.
Focus group interviews conducted in this paper were used to create a research de-
sign. The draft scale was developed with the support of the item pool created as a result
of focus group discussions. While paying attention to the fact that the questions in the
draft scale are clear and understandable, taking into account the recommendations in the
literature, attention was paid to ensure that the number of questions was not more than
50 in order not to bore the participants.
3.2. Item Pool Generation
In the first step, which is commonly called “creating an item pool”, the researcher
obtains theoretical support . It is possible to classify item pooling methods as deduc-
tion, induction or a combination of both. The deductive method includes creating an item
pool based on a comprehensive literature review and pre-existing scales . On the other
hand, creating an item pool with the inductive method is based on qualitative information
about a structure that emerges from the views obtained from the target population. Focus
groups, interviews and expert panels are among the techniques used in the inductive
In the second step, which is usually called “theoretical analysis”, the researcher eval-
uates the content validity of the new scale and ensures that the created item pool reflects
the desired structure . It is an important step as inferences about the final scale items
are made through content validity. To gain confidence in all resulting inferences, the item
content must be considered valid. The researcher can get support from expert opinions or
potential participants of the scale in order to ensure content validity.
In the last step, consisting of the statistical analysis, the researcher evaluates whether
the new scale has structural validity and reliability. Construct validity is directly associ-
ated with the question of what the measurement tool actually measures. It is possible to
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 9 of 20
measure construct validity with exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis
or convergent, discriminant, predictive, criterion, internal and external validity. In con-
trast, reliability is a measure of score consistency, which is generally measured by the use
of internal consistency, retest reliability, item-total correlation/inter-item reliability and
interobserver reliability . To guarantee construct validity and reliability, data must be
collected in the form of a reasonably large and appropriately chosen sample representa-
tive of the target population.
These difficulties in the scale development process deteriorate the statistical analysis
results obtained, limit the future potential of the novel scale and prevent its generalizabil-
ity. In this sense, as a result of the most frequently occurring issues, the study is essential
in providing essential information that will help develop best practices for future research.
In this study, first of all, a detailed literature review about leadership scales was made.
Academic studies and focus group discussions have been used to create an item pool.
After creating separate item pools for each focus group, the items suitable for the scale
were included in the study or redesigned to be appropriate for the subject, and the item
pool took its final form.
In the current study, both methods were used together at the stage of creating the
item pool. In the first stage of the research, studies on leadership styles were examined.
Attention was paid to the research methods, aims and scopes, validity and reliability lev-
els of the examined studies as well as the dimensions of the scale items. Subsequently,
focus group interviews were conducted in order to create statements about the concept of
virtual team leadership. During the focus group discussions, pre-formed open-ended
questions were asked to the participants. While it is recommended that the questions
asked to the participants be clear and understandable during the focus group discussion,
it is also important that the answers are in the form of mutual communication. It is also
important to ask questions in order from general to specific. At this point, the ideas and
thoughts of the participants will mature and more logical answers will emerge. The types
of questions to be used in focus group interviews are generally under five main headings
and are categorized as: opening, introduction, transition, key and finishing questions .
The questions posed to the participants in the current study are presented in the table
below. Table 1 provides the focus group questions which are determined by the review of
the literature and the personal expertise of the two contributing authors of this study.
Table 1. Focus Group Interview Questions.
Question Type Questions
Opening To what extent are virtual communication tools included in your
Let’s say you hold a meeting about your job or education in a vir-
tual environment. When we evaluate the management style in
such meetings in the context of leadership types, we come across
the concept of virtual team leadership.
What do you think a virtual team is?
How do you define virtual leadership?
What do you understand when you say virtual team leadership?
Think about the meetings you hold in the virtual environment in
terms of leadership styles and management styles.
How do you think a team
leader in a virtual environment should
What are the features that distinguish a virtual team leader from
How would a virtual team leader be expected to motivate their
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 10 of 20
How does the virtual team leader monitor or monitor team mem-
bers’ performance and progress towards task completion?
How do you define the concept of virtual team leadership in
Do you think that virtual meetings held in multinational compa-
nies are different from face-to-face meetings? If so, what are
What do you think is the role of the leader in virtual meetings of
multinational companies? Does the leader in face-to-face meet-
ings have common aspects and differences with his duties? If so,
what are they?
Could you share what you would like to add to the topic of vir-
tual team leadership in multinational companies?
Is there a topic that we skipped, didn’t talk about, or didn’t care
In the research, a total of three focus group interviews were conducted and each in-
terview was recorded. The first focus group meeting was held with the participation of
seven people working within the multinational company. The interview was held in the
company’s meeting room. The second was carried out with a group of five academicians.
Since the interview could not be held face-to-face due to the coronavirus epidemic, it was
completed via the online platform. The third focus group meeting was held via the online
platform, in the same way with the students who are continuing their graduate education
in the field of international trade and finance. As a result of the examination of the rec-
orded documents, separate item pools were created for each focus group. The results of
open-ended questions and the number of occurrences (frequency) are given in Tables 2
Table 2. First Focus Group Frequencies.
Problem Solving Skills 4 Orderly 2
High responsibility 2 Solution oriented 4
Results oriented 5 Success oriented 1
Observation skills 3 Fair in assigning order of speech 5
High coordination skills 10 Positive speech 1
Authoritarian 8 Presentable 5
Lack of Authority 4 Orientation Appropriate for the Envi-
Emphasis on Equality 7 Realistic and Brave 8
Eliminates boredom 8 Fake 2
Clarity 4 Presentation environment 8
Attentive to environment 1 Difficult communication with mem-
Ability to keep the members in the
meeting 1 Collaboration among members 4
Ability to object 4 Gifts, rewards 4
Difficulty to object 2 Being Concise 2
Prepares environment for the meet-
ing 2 One to one Behavior, fusing the group 5
Interactive 6 Meeting Management with the Partic-
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 11 of 20
One to one attention 3 Question and Answer Management 3
Praises success 3 Enables members to report 1
Not Voicing Members’ Failures 5 Punishment 1
Knowledge of foreign language 5 One to one criticism 4
High knowledge in area 11 High communication skills 3
Enables consensus 8 Charismatic 3
Knows people 6 Male 3
High Internet Speed 3 Female 2
Clear Job Definitions 8 Dynamic 3
Sympathetic, Fun 7 Low Job Satisfaction 4
Gives importance to privacy and
availability 11 Members Distraction 2
Information before meetings 5 Assigns jobs according to skills 3
Conflict detection and resolution 3 Sets targets 2
Self Confidence 2
Table 3. Second Focus Group Frequencies.
Delegating responsibility 3 Short targets 4
Coordination 6 Frequent Evaluation Meetings 4
Follow-up 1 Project Based Consultant Assignment
Goal oriented 9 Gifts, Surprises 1
Organizing 6 Short presentations 4
Motivation 1 Lack of symbols 2
Virtual leader same as face to face
leader 3 Advanced technology 4
Virtual leader different than face to
face leader 4 Meeting Hours Suitable to Members
Resolves conflict 4 Reflects success on wages 3
Assigns Work appropriately 7 Change in concept of work leave 1
Making decisions together 1 Flexible 1
Exchange of ideas 3 Leader takes part of work 1
not to deviate from the
subject 4 Advising 2
Technical skills 4 Awareness of Cultural Differences 1
Young 3 Effective Management of Time Differ-
Success oriented 1 Communication skills 5
Divides team into small groups 10 Authoritarian 1
Divides work into micro packets 7 Low cost 1
Rule setter 6 Leader’s Characteristics are High-
Written duties 4 Order of talking 3
Clear work definition 4 Prevents arguments 3
Detailed work follow up 5 Planned and organized meting man-
Increase in formality 3
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 12 of 20
When the item pools that emerged as a result of the focus group interviews carried
out on behalf of the research are examined, it is seen that the most recurring subjects in
the first group are the concepts of a high level of knowledge and caring for private life. In
the second focus group interview, the concept with the highest frequency of repetition
was teams being divided into small groups. In the third focus group discussion, in Table
4 below, it is seen that the word “directing” has the highest number of repetitions.
Table 4. Third Focus Group Frequencies.
Directing 9 Ability to procrastinate 1
Purposeful Acting 3 Voice pitch 8
Sets targets 1 Unexpected questions 5
Increases group harmony 6 Struggler 1
Authoritarian 8 Making Missions Matter 1
Trust 1 Fun environment 2
Role model 2 Include Important People in the Meeting 1
Leader is assigned 3 Before the meeting mentions the purpose
of the meeting 4
Dynamic Environment Provider
3 Culture 2
Just 1 Language knowledge 5
Technology 6 Open to innovation 2
Maintains order 2 Appreciates the members 3
Knowledge 2 Proper meeting time 1
Knows members 2 Short meeting 1
Style of speech 1 Difficulty to settle conflict 9
Gestures, Mimics 5 Ability to reach after meeting 1
High degree of responsibility 1 High feedback 1
Face to face meeting leader is
more effective 2 Instantly Changes The Subject during con-
Flexible timing 2 Analytical 3
Loss of time (Virtual Meeting) 4 Sets the rules before the meeting 1
Appearance 1 Including everyone in the subject 2
Low efficiency 4 Order of Speech 3
High efficiency 5 Using one technological tool 1
Low cost 1 Contribution to Salary with Point System
Number of people 2 Meeting environment order 5
Easy to lead virtual teams 2 Must prevent commotion 2
Difficult Person 6 Setting Meeting Times According to Ma-
Difficulty exercising authority 5 Talkative 1
Short Duties 2
3.3. Making Use of Expert Opinions
With this draft scale, the opinions of three experts in the field were consulted in order
to determine the characteristics of virtual team leaders in multinational companies and
the clarity of the items in the scale. In line with the answers of the experts, the items with
weak representation were corrected or deleted and rewritten. In this context, the five items
in the scale created by the researcher were divided into two, some expressions were rear-
ranged for easier understanding, and expressions with the same meaning were removed
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 13 of 20
from the scale. As a result, the number of items, which was 43 at the beginning, was re-
duced to 36 based on expert opinions. In line with the opinions obtained, the final items
were decided and the final form of the draft scale was created. The content validity of the
measurement tool that emerged as a result of the procedures needed to be ensured. Thus,
a pre-application form was designed for the pilot application to be carried out before the
reliability and validity analysis of the scale. The 36-question survey is provided in Appen-
dix A. The questions make use of a 5-point Likert-type agreement scale. A similar proce-
dure was carried out by Gencer and Akkucuk  and well documented.
3.4. Pilot Study and Reliability and Validity Assessment
Testing the draft scale created in scale development studies on a smaller sample be-
fore applying it to the population is a method used for newly developed scales. This
method, which is called a pilot application, is also used to determine what kind of effects
the previously developed scales will have on different samples . In this context, it is
possible to eliminate answering and different out-of-sample defects that reveal a large
part of the total survey error through the pilot study .
While the universe of the current study is all teams in virtual environments, its sam-
ple is employees of multinational companies located in the Marmara region of Turkey.
If confirmatory factor analysis is performed in scale development studies, it is rec-
ommended that the number of people participating in the research be two times more
than the number of items in the scale, while when the literature is examined, it is seen that
the sample used for the pilot application is considered to be between 100–200 people .
In this context, it is possible to say that the sample size of 123 is suitable for the pilot study,
since only exploratory factor analysis will be carried out in the current study. In addition,
the convenience sampling method was used to perform the sample selection of the study.
The selected group members were part of the close circles of the members of the academic
community at the universities where the researchers worked and the family businesses
that they were associated with. However, all worked in multinational companies and had
the chance to work in remote groups due to their work, especially after the pandemic.
Statistics regarding the demographic information of the people who participated in the
survey are given in Table 5.
Table 5. Pilot Study Participants.
Female 49 39.8
Male 74 60.2
Total 123 100
18–24 16 13
25–34 63 51.2
35–44 34 27.6
Total 123 100
High School 17 13.8
BA/BS Degree 80 65
MA/MS Degree 24 19.5
Total 123 100
Yalova 30 24.4
Bursa 23 18.7
İstanbul 49 39.8
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 14 of 20
Tekirdağ 11 8.9
3.5. Reliability and Validity Assessment
It is possible to define reliability as the consistency between the answers given by the
participants to the items in the scale. The concept of reliability, which is related to the
errors in the measurement, expresses how accurately the phenomenon to be analyzed is
measured. If the amount of error in the measurement related to the study is low or absent,
the reliability is considered high. Reliability analyses are considered indispensable in scale
development studies and must be done correctly.
Cronbach’s Alpha Reliability: With this method, a reliability coefficient is calculated
on the answers given by the participants in a single application. While the Cronbach Al-
pha Coefficient is between 0 and 1, if this value is close to zero, the scale is unreliable, and
if it approaches one, it means that the degree of reliability increases.
This coefficient is expected to be above 0.7. Satisfactory Cronbach Alpha Coefficient
is 0.8 and above. To measure the internal consistency of the measurement tool in this
study, the “Cronbach Alpha Coefficient” was examined in order to analyze the analysis.
The result is that this survey gives a reliability of 0.94 which can be considered satisfac-
In addition, the component loadings can be used to name the dimensions consisting
of the 36 items in the item pool and to purify the scale by eliminating some unnecessary
items. We believe that 6 dimensions containing 29 items from the original 36 items explain
60% of the variation. Table 6 provides the results of the loadings obtained through Vari-
max rotation. The deleted items are items 4, 13, 17, 29, 31, 33 and 34. The justification for
the deletion is that the item loadings are below 10% for all dimensions. After the deletion,
Cronbach’s Alpha turns out to be 0.913 which is also considered satisfactory for the 29-
item purified scale. The individual dimension Cronbach’s Alpha values were also calcu-
lated. Dimension 1 Managerial Qualities had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.852, Dimen-
sion 2 Interactivity had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.764, Dimension 3 human Relations
had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.770, Dimension 4 Personal Traits had a Cronbach’s
Alpha value of 0.753, Dimension 5 Rewards had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.665, and
finally Dimension 6 Flexibility had a Cronbach’s Alpha value of 0.616. When it comes to
the eigenvalues of the dimensions interpreted from the analysis (rotation sum of squares)
we have the following results: Dimension 1 has an eigenvalue of 4.141 explaining a cumu-
lative variance of % 14.281, Dimension 2 has an eigenvalue of 3.345 explaining a cumula-
tive variance of % 25,817, Dimension 3 has an eigenvalue of 2.788 explaining a cumulative
variance of % 34,431, Dimension 4 has an eigenvalue of 2.603 explaining a cumulative
variance of % 44.406, Dimension 5 has an eigenvalue of 2.473 explaining a cumulative
variance of % 52.934, Dimension 6 has an eigenvalue of 1.961 explaining a cumulative
variance of % 59.695.
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 15 of 20
Table 6. Rotated Component Matrix with Dimension Names.
Relations Personal Traits
Item 3 0.723
Item 8 0.493
Item 7 0.853
Item 6 0.796
Item 9 0.691
Item 1 0.804
Item 2 0.726
Item 5 0.497
Changes in market and business structures as a result of developments in infor-
mation and communication technologies have become a subject that needs to be examined
within the scope of virtual organizations, especially in terms of leadership characteristics.
With the fast change in technology, communication technology has developed and the
level of communication has increased through virtual communication tools. In the current
order, people, regardless of status, access and use data they need with the help of infor-
mation and communication technologies. With the increase in the level of digitalization
in the world, many businesses have started to use virtual communication tools at a high
level. As a result, the concept of the virtual team has emerged. Virtual teams work beyond
the boundaries of time and space, using communication media such as e-mail, telephone,
groupware and video conferencing, and consist of members in more than one physical
Organizations achieve great gains by overcoming geographical, cultural and tem-
poral differences thanks to virtual teams. Multinational companies, which are organiza-
tions that operate in more than one country, have central controls for all parts of the com-
pany and control small company units in other countries, are also among the organiza-
tions that create virtual teams using Internet-mediated communication tools.
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 16 of 20
The desired leadership characteristics are not constant and changes are observed
over the years  therefore it is important to update the current literature with newer
studies. Leadership style is an important concern for companies as leadership styles may
also influence organizational commitment  and employee expectations of the superi-
ors . It is also important to note that, as also stated by Oc , “leadership does not
occur in vacuum”. It is important to point out the fact that leaders should adopt their
styles based on the unique needs and expectations of the situation and the employees.
With the current study, it is aimed to develop a valid and reliable scale in order to
discover and analyze the virtual team leadership characteristics of individuals within the
multinational company. At this point, firstly, the concepts of leadership, multinational
companies and virtual team leadership are explained. Literature, focus group discussions
and statistical analyzes were used to develop the items to be included in the scale to be
created afterwards. For the research, a total of three focus group interviews were con-
ducted and the data obtained were analyzed. In order to ensure the content validity of the
items that emerged as a result of the data analysis, expert opinions were consulted and a
29-item scale was created.
After the scale to be used for the study was established, a pilot study was carried out
on a sample of 123 employees of multinational companies located in the Marmara region.
The results obtained with the factor analysis studies carried out in order to measure the
construct validity of the results obtained as a result of the pilot application are listed.
In this study, it has been our goal to obtain a valid and reliable measurement tool by
considering the perception of employees in multinational companies in order to approach
the phenomenon of leadership from a different perspective and to determine the charac-
teristics of the leader in the virtual environment. It is thought that the research will be
useful to measure the concept of virtual team leadership, which does not have many re-
sources in the literature. When the literature on the research subject is examined, no study
has been found that deals with the relationship between the concepts of multinational
companies and virtual team leadership. At this point, it is possible to say that the work
that emerged has an exploratory character.
When the literature is examined, it is seen that there is no scale development study
on virtual team leadership. Previous research on the subject is generally comprised of
qualitative studies. It is worth mentioning that this research was conducted to elucidate
the concept of virtual team leadership, to try to define it and to determine its features.
It is also seen that the research has some limitations in terms of the methods and
sample size. First, the qualitative data collection part of the study was completed by mak-
ing use of the literature and focus group interviews. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, two
of the focus group meetings were held remotely. However, since only the pilot study was
carried out in the research, the sample was narrowed and the survey data were obtained
with the participation of multinational company employees in the Marmara region of Tur-
key. Although the current limitations pose difficulties for the generalizability of the re-
search, the results show that the scale is valid and reliable. Furthermore, as per the sample
size of 123 used in calculating the Cronbach’s Alpha of the scale, we realize we are on the
lower side of sample size requirements and therefore more thorough analyses of the em-
pirical properties of the scale are left for a larger study.
It is supposed that scales created without considering the characteristics of the lead-
ers in the virtual environment are insufficient to explain this concept. Thanks to this de-
veloped scale, it will be possible to measure the leadership characteristics of individuals
working in multinational companies in the virtual environment. We believe this scale can
stimulate a series of academic research studies on this field. These studies may further the
empirical analyses by larger samples or create different spin-off scales applicable to dif-
ferent cultures or working environments. On the applied side, when it comes to company
administration it may also be used as a scale in the human resources departments.
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 17 of 20
Moreover, as resource considerations are becoming more important for businesses in
terms of sustainability , doing business remotely will be ever more important. In ad-
dition, it is expected that this scale, called the GVTLS Scale, which we have added to the
literature, will be a pioneer in leadership in virtual teams in different regions of the world
and in various sectors, and its results will be shared with the academic community.
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, S.N.B. and Y.G.G.; methodology, Y.G.G.; software,
S.N.B.; validation, S.N.B., Y.G.G. and U.A.; formal analysis, S.N.B.; investigation, S.N.B.; resources,
S.N.B.; data curation, S.N.B.; writing—original draft preparation, S.N.B.; writing—review and edit-
ing, Y.G.G. and U.A.; visualization, U.A.; supervision, U.A.; project administration, Y.G.G. All au-
thors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement: The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the
Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Institutional Review Board (or Ethics Committee) of
YALOVA UNIVERSITY (protocol code 2021/47 and 2 May 2021).
Informed Consent Statement: Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the
Data Availability Statement: The data presented in this study are available in the article.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Appendix A. 36 Item Survey GVTLS Applied to Sample of 123 Respondents. (x) Indi-
cates 7 Items Deleted as a Result of Factor Analysis.
Virtual Team Leader
Neither Disagree nor
Has information about different cultures and effectively man-
ages cultural differences within the team.
Determines the meeting time, taking into account the availa-
bility and private lives of the team members.
Designs the meeting environment according to the nature of
During the meeting in the virtual communication tool and in
the virtual environment, pays attention to his/her appearance.
With team members from different countries, has a command
of the common language used to communicate.
His/her communication skills are high.
Uses gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice effectively.
By creating virtual sub-teams and making use of asynchro-
nous electronic means (e.g., electronic discussion threads) al-
lows different opinions to be expressed.
Has high technical knowledge about the virtual communica-
tion tool he/she uses.
one attention to team members and praises their
Does not publicly express the failures of his/her team mem-
bers, but makes his/her criticisms one-to-one.
Ensures that individual achievements are reflected in the sal-
Sustainability 2022, 14, 1038 18 of 20
Organizes planned and regular evaluation meetings.
based consultants by dividing the team into
Keeps the meeting time short and makes the environment
Sets short goals and breaks work down into micro-packages.
Recognizes team members and distributes work according to
Allows team members to submit work reports.
Holds the meeting by exchanging views with team members.
Coordinates and directs the team.
Delegates and monitors work.
Becomes a role model for its members by being a partner in
Activates all team members in the meeting.
Eliminates the distracting elements around the meeting dur-
ing the meeting.
Mentions the aims and rules of the meeting before the meet-
Gives the team members the right to speak at the required
Allows members to reach consensus.
Takes precautions by sensing the conflict that may arise in ad-
Is a goal setter and success oriented.
Is open to innovations.
Has the ability to solve problems
Friendly and fun.
Has a high sense of responsibility.
Observation and analysis skills are at a high level.
Authoritarian and rule maker.
With his/her appearance and characteristics adapts to the en-
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