Emergent leadership, as Geno Prussakov points out is the opposite of assigned or positional leadership. Referring to Northouse’s observations in Leadership: Theory & Practice, he states that the assigned leader is not always the real leader and that this is leadership that comes out over time through communication. Prussakov goes on to say that emergent leadership is necessary when influencing independent thinkers.
Misiolek and Heckman (2005) took a functionalist viewpoint in examining emergent leadership in virtual teams and found a lack of conclusive evidence as to how leadership emerged in virtual teams. While they found a great deal of communication in teams where they identified strong emergent leaders, the teams with weak emergent leadership accomplished their goal as well as the others. They concluded that much of the communication in the teams showing weaker leadership was directed to the entire team and that factors such as trust, team cohesion and satisfaction could have influenced performance. The common element in both Prussakov’s blog and the study of emergent leadership in virtual teams was an emphasis on communication.
As Misiolek and Heckman (2005) observe in the introduction to their study, “Fast-forming, fast-dissolving virtual teams have become increasingly more important in modern organizational life.” Both distance and face to face educational organizations rely increasingly on short-term teams to support learning objectives. Groups of students address learning outcomes while groups of teachers or professors use these groupings to address the organizational needs of the institution. These teams address tasks which must be accomplished with a speed and efficiency that does not allow for positional leadership. Emergent leadership fits the nature of the task and allows for a dynamism that suits educational activities.