E-Leadership or “How to Be Boss in Instant Messaging?” The Role of Nonverbal Communication

Erika Darics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Doing leadership in the virtual realm has now become a routine part of many leaders’ daily work, yet our understanding of how leadership is enacted in mediated contexts—especially in text-only channels—is very limited. By applying micro-level analysis to naturally occurring instant message conversations, this article exposes the strategies leaders employ to achieve a range of complex communication goals: to get the work done while fostering informality and collegiality and creating the sense of a real—and not virtual—collaboration between team members. The findings further our understanding in two domains: They provide empirical grounding for e-leadership theories by exposing practices from real-life interactions, and they contribute to discursive leadership literature by addressing nonverbal communication practices. The findings of the article could form the basis for management and leadership training by drawing attention to the linguistic and semiotic resources digital leaders have at their disposal in virtual work environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-29
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright: The author(s). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/


  • CMC cues
  • computer-mediated communication
  • e-leadership
  • grounded practical theory
  • nonverbal communication interactional linguistics
  • virtual team leadership


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