Date of Conferral







Carol Wells


A 2002 congressional mandate initiated the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Centers of Excellence programs with a requirement to conduct cross-organizational research and development. The resulting complex multiorganizational programs required more effective virtual leadership and management strategies. Fifteen years later, the presidential budget showed that 61% of the DHS budget was targeted for such research and development. The complex management strategies and virtual leadership skills required to lead the programs were lacking, as top scientific researchers are drawn upon to manage programs. The purpose of this study was to understand followers' perspectives regarding virtual leadership and collaboration within complex multiorganizational DHS Centers of Excellence programs. Complex-systems and leader-member exchange theories formed the conceptual framework. Fifteen individuals, representing 10 Centers of Excellence programs, were interviewed about virtual leadership strategies used to motivate highly educated scientists across program organizations. A case study analysis of participants' perspectives revealed 4 key findings. The first finding was that programs employed shared leadership where project subteams were self-managed. The second finding was that the programs focused on applied research, resulting in subteam structures segmented by discipline. The third finding showed that collaboration occurred within collocated subteams and coordination was most common between virtual partners. The final finding was that highly educated participants were primarily self-motivated. Targeted training can lead to positive social change through influencing the existing paradigm of leadership for these programs.