Fjernledelse eller fjernstyring? En kvalitativ undersøkelse av hvordan geografisk avstand påvirker ledelse
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The topic of this thesis is remote leadership and the purpose is to examine how leaders in the governmental sector experience the impact of geographical distance on their leadership performance. The research is carried out in a medium sized state directorate with four office locations in Norway. The thesis deals primarily with remote leadership of employees who are permanently working from other office locations than their leader, but also relates to remote leadership of employees at home offices. The thesis examines how leaders in the directorate experience the differences between remote leadership and locally based leadership. In addition, the thesis investigates what factors the leaders find decisive when choosing leadership behaviors on a distance. In the thesis leadership is defined as people-oriented behavior (consideration) and task-oriented behavior (initiating structure), and the thesis considers the balance between the two leadership styles. The research was carried out while the directorate was in the implementation phase of a recent merger. The underlying data are obtained from in-depth interviews of nine leaders on two levels in the directorate. The findings are assessed in relation to prior research on remote leadership, and theories concerning distance and situational leadership. The informants experience that geographical distance challenge the building of relationships, informal and spontaneous contact, establishing proximity to the individual and creating unity in the group. Geographical distance enhances social, cognitive and cultural distance and makes remote leadership more demanding than locally based leadership. Simultaneously technological tools impact the traditional notion of distance and the digital availability of the leader decreases the difference between locally based leadership and remote leadership. The geographical distance does not prevent good digital availability, but it challenges the presence of the leader and limits people oriented leadership. The research reveals that task oriented leadership to a certain extent displaces people oriented leadership and revolves the remote leadership towards remote control. This experienced imbalance between consideration and initiating structure is related not only to the geographical distance, but to a large degree also to the recent merger. In order to compensate for the distance, the informants perform special measures to get to know the employees at other local offices. They travel more than earlier, spend time on clarifications of expectations and adjust their communication patterns. The informants experience that relations to the employees and characteristics of employees especially affect choice of leadership behavior. The nature of the task, cultural differences and the span of control are also highlighted as situational factors of significance. Geographical distance actualizes the need for leader substitutes such as self-leadership and shared leadership, which can substitute and supplement traditional vertical leadership. The research also shows how the leaders change their own behavior in line with the altered surroundings, and that this change builds on metacognitive strategies and reflexive learning occurring simultaneously with the alterations.