Purdue University Graduate School
Steve Drohan thesis (FINAL).pdf (1.09 MB)

A Framework for Leading at a Distance

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posted on 2024-03-28, 22:02 authored by Steve DrohanSteve Drohan

This mixed-method grounded theory study developed and tested a new framework for leading geographically dispersed teams. With the dramatic shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders now face new challenges in developing corporate strategies and approaches to leadership without proximity to their teams. However, existing leadership literature has yet to catch up to this new reality.

Grounded in interviews with business leaders and a quantitative survey of 100 leaders and 100 employees, this study identified communication frequency and trust-building as vital for reducing uncertainty. It also found that promoting employee well-being requires relationship-centered leadership and constructing inclusive cultures. Ultimately, leading at a distance requires adapting leadership development and reevaluating organizational design to focus on alignment, transparency, and culture-building.

The resulting framework identifies specific leader competencies needed for remote management. It emphasizes the importance of leader visibility, constructive feedback practices, and crisis readiness. The framework highlights new imperatives in meeting design, goal-setting, professional development, and performance management. Finally, it calls for policies that promote work-life balance through comprehensive flexibility.

This study provides theoretical and practical guidance with hybrid and remote work arrangements likely to persist post-pandemic. It demonstrates the effectiveness of grounded theory methodology in new research contexts. The framework presented lays the foundation for leadership approaches that empower productivity and well-being across distributed teams.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Technology


  • Technology Leadership and Innovation

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. John S. Hutcheson

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Darelene F. Russ-Eft

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Jeffrey Decker

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Brandon Grant

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