Cross Cultural Management and Leadership

Research programmes and projects

Research Programme on Leading Global Virtual Teams

Global virtual teams have long been on the rise and with having to work at a distance from home in connection with the COVID-19 restrictions virtual team work became the “new normal”. Today they are routinely used by global organizations to cope with our increasingly competitive, complex and culturally diverse 21st century world.  The challenges of virtual work, transcending space and time across national, cultural and linguistic borders is by now established knowledge. The importance of team leadership for managing challenges and bringing out the best in multicultural groups is well recognized. Yet, surprisingly little is known about global virtual team leadership.

This research programme currently includes three projects. The first project focuses on global virtual team leaders and achieved leadership status, the second on leadership, English language skills and culture in global virtual teams, and the third on developing a culture-positive concept for collaboration in multicultural teams.

Global virtual team leaders and achieved leadership status

This project is about incoming team leaders of global virtual multicultural teams. Earlier research has shown that in collocated teams the incoming leader is judged by the team on visible attributes, which has an impact on the leader’s possibility to lead the group. Where leaders deemed as low status have less degrees of freedom as to how to lead the team, compared to those leaders perceived as having high status. Similar results have been found in research comparing men and women as leaders, where men have more choices as to leadership behaviour, and women have less options and are judged more harshly than the men. In other words, the incoming leaders’ leadership is evaluated based on who they are rather than what they do, but is this also the situation in global virtual teams? In what way, if any does achieved leadership status matter? Is it possible that organizing work in global virtual teams opens up to unexplored opportunities for multicultural management? And if so how did the successful team leaders organize work virtually across national, cultural, linguistic and time zone borders? The results from this project can increase our understanding of organizing work in global virtual teams and importantly what leadership opportunities that this could entail.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members: Audra I. Mockaitis (Maynooth University, Ireland); Peter Zettinig (Turku University, Finland) and Stephan Gerschewski (Edinburgh Business School, UK)
Duration: 2016-2024
Financed by: Earlier financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ)

Leadership, English language skills and culture in global virtual teams

Global virtual teams are characterized by work carried out via digital technologies across time zones, national and cultural boundaries with team members who speak different languages. Team leaders may not only be biased in the way they perceive group members’ abilities, they could also be biased in their perception of their own abilities to manage and facilitate positive group processes. Leadership proficiency in speaking the common language in the team could thus lead to that team leaders believe that information, important to the team trust building process and team outcomes, is widely shared and understood by the team members. However, team members may not agree with team leader perceptions on how well-shared information is in the team. In this project, we focus on the role of team leaders’ English proficiency for leadership, information-sharing and trust in the multicultural team as well as on team outcomes.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members: Jakob Lauring (Aarhus University, Denmark), Audra I. Mockaitis (Maynooth University, Ireland); and Peter Zettinig (Turku University, Finland)
Duration: 2022-24

From ethnocentrism to developing a culture-positive concept for collaboration in multicultural teams

The promising synergetic potential of multicultural teams can be negatively affected by misunderstandings, stereotyping, and bias. This project focuses on the timely question of what brings us together across cultural boundaries, overcomes team members’ experienced outsidership, and improves team work processes despite ethnocentrism, stereotyping or cultural misunderstandings when working together in multicultural contexts. Simply organizing work in multicultural teams is not enough to result in extraordinary outcomes, leading us to the question of what it is, more precisely that generates and enables good working processes in multicultural groups. The overall aim in this project is to develop a culture-positive concept for multicultural collaboration.

Project leader: Lena Zander
Project members:
Duration: 2023-25

Research Programme on Highly Educated Migrants and Integration

In the wake of international migration, highly skilled individuals find new work opportunities across borders. Historical facts indicate that some countries, such as Sweden have benefitted in a pivotal way from earlier migrants' knowledge, skills and ideas. But what does it look like today? This research program’s overall significance lies in the ambition to provide a deeper understanding of the problems and solutions involved in cultural integration of highly skilled migrants at the workplace.

This research program currently includes three projects. In the first project, highly skilled migrants’ integration in Swedish firms will be compared to that of highly qualified migrants in ten other countries, in an international study with implications for theory and practice. The second project has a focus on whether there is a relationship between highly educated migrant integration, opportunity recognition and innovativeness at Swedish workplaces. The third project studies effects of policy changes for Swedish-educated foreign Ph Ds on their innovation performance and publication outcomes.

Highly qualified migrants and integration

The purpose of this international comparative project is to provide a more comprehensive understanding of highly educated migrants’ integration at their workplaces. The study is focused on the migrant perspective. As this project is part of a larger international comparative research endeavor the Swedish results will be compared to the results in ten other countries. Overall the project is expected to generate theoretical insights and practical implications of value to both scholars and practitioners.

Project leader for the Swedish study: Lena Zander
International Research Team Coordinators: Aida Hajro (Brunel University London, UK), Günter K. Stahl (Vienna University of Economics and Business, WU Vienna, Austria) and Eren Akken, Kedge Business School, France

Country coordinators:

  • Australia: Dan Caprar, University of New South Wales
  • Austria: Wolfgang Mayrhofer, Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna)
  • Canada: Mila Lazarova, Simon Fraser University and Jelena Zikic, York University
  • Finland: Ingmar Björkman and Alexei Koveshnikov, Aalto University
  • France: Jean-Luc Cerdin, ESSEC Business School
  • Germany: Nicole Richter, University of Southern Denmark
  • Spain: Sebastian Reiche, ESADE
  • Sweden: Lena Zander, Uppsala University
  • Switzerland: Joerg Dietz, HEC Lausanne and Eric F. G. Davoine, Université de Fribourg  
  • UK: Chris Brewster, Henley Business School, University of Reading
  • USA: Mary Zelllmer-Bruhn, Carlson School of Management

Duration: 2017-2021–extended to 2023 (due to COVID-19)
Financed by: Handelsbankens forskningsfonder (Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse, Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse) provides funding for Lena Zander.

Highly educated migrant integration at Swedish workplaces, opportunity recognition and innovativeness

Our workplaces are becoming increasingly multicultural through a diverse workforce, with inflows of expertise and other highly educated migrant jobseekers. In this project, we set out to study whether a diversity-positive organizational culture and inclusive leadership will contribute to enabling migrant opportunity recognition and engagement in individual innovativeness. Opportunity recognition involves spotting and identifying opportunities for creating new products, processes, services, systems and markets, whereas innovativeness refers to the process of utilizing opportunities to create new products, services, processes Highly educated migrants may, despite knowledge, expertise and experience, be treated as if lacking qualifications and subjected to negative bias, which can have various consequences such as demotivation and health issues as well as inhibiting individuals’ opportunity recognition and innovativeness. 

Project leader: Lena Zander,
Project members: Peter Zettinig (Turku University, Finland) and Eren Akken, Kedge Business School, France
Financed by: Earlier financed by Handelsbankens forskningsfonder (Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse, Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse)
Duration: 2021-2025

Does Sweden capture the brain-gain opportunity? A study on the effects of immigration policy change on Swedish-trained foreign PhDs 

Sweden eased its immigration regulation against Swedish-educated foreign PhDs in 2014 and grants them right to obtain permanent residence permit with very few requirements. While this is regarded as an emerging strategy for attracting high-skilled young talents and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in many developed economies, as well as addressing the brain-drain by turning it to brain-gain there is limited research studying the effect of immigration policies aimed at foreign PhDs. This project intends to study the potential policy mechanism and examine the effects of such regulation change on foreign PhDs’ retaining, innovation performance and entrepreneurship activities in Sweden.

Project leader: Wensong Bai
Project members: Lena Zander
Financed by: Earlier financed by Handelsbankens forskningsfonder (Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse, Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse)
Duration: 2021-2025

Last modified: 2023-09-18