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Lead Your Team Leadership

Fast Fingers: Typing Skills Can Make You a Better Virtual Leader

Fast Fingers: Typing Skills Can Make You a Better Virtual Leader
Credit: Intarapong/Shutterstock

If you are looking to take charge in a virtual working environment, you would be best served to brush up on your typing, new research suggests.

A study recently published in the journal Leadership Quarterly discovered that professionals who can type quickly and accurately are more likely to emerge as leaders of virtual teams whose members are dispersed across multiple locations. While some communication amongst virtual teams is done via video conferencing or the phone, most of their discussions rely on text-based tools, like email and instant messaging.

"Individuals who can type faster are able to more quickly communicate their thoughts and drive the direction of a team in a collaborative work setting, whereas individuals with lower abilities lag behind their counterparts," said Greg Stewart, one of the study's authors and a professor at the University of Iowa, in a statement.

For the study, researchers conducted an experiment on 344 participants divided into groups of four. Some groups had all four members in different locations, while others had various combinations of members in the same and different rooms. For the experiment, each participant played the role of a leadership team of a Hollywood studio deciding which of several scripts to produce, based on various marketing studies they read. Unless they were in the same room, all communication was done by text with a computer. [Hiring remote workers? How to evaluate your candidates]

After the role-playing scenario, the participants were surveyed on the leadership abilities of their colleagues, among other things.

The researchers found that the participants who could type well, in terms of both speed and accuracy, were more likely to be viewed as better leaders by their teammates.

"One explanation is that individuals who can type fast are simply able to communicate more information within a given period of time," said Steve Charlier, who led the study as part of his doctoral thesis at the University of Iowa and is now an associate professor at Georgia Southern University. "In turn, adept users of electronic communication are more likely to set strategy, drive conversations, and influence work teams as a whole."

The research also revealed that participants tended to give higher leadership ratings to team members who were in rooms together than members in other locations. When team members were all separated, where the other members were had no impact on their leadership scores.

Stewart said this suggests that remote workers will have a hard time emerging as leaders when they are in a location by themselves and their co-workers are together in one office.

The study was co-authored by Lindsey Greco of Oklahoma State University and Cody Reeves of Brigham Young University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.