Terrence Seamon, whom I had the chance to work with a few years back when American Management Association was putting together a new course on leading virtual teams (I was subject matter expert for the course and Terry held the management development portfolio there; together we did a webinar that you can listen to here), has a nice reflective post on what it takes to work successfully from a distance. He calls out the role of leadership in his virtual experience -- in his example, there was no appointed leader, as is the case when this works successfully, many people took on leadership roles:
Leadership - We were a leaderless group, where no one was appointed (or elected) as the leader. However, since a team needs leadership to be successful, leadership emerged as we went along. For example, several members of our team kept us informed of direction and guidance from the editors. Getting this input from time-to-time kept us on track, and kept us going.
The myth that virtual groups -- and networks -- have no leaders is one of the most pernicious misunderstandings about these work arrangements. It leaves the impression that they have no direction and no accountability for results ... and it's wrong. One of the gifts of these organizational innovations is that they allow all kinds of leadership modalities to surface.
Thanks, Terry, for the chance to board this particular bandwagon again!