Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Individual and Organizational Characteristics That Facilitate and Restrict Boundary Spanning of Team Leaders

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Mark A. Earley

Second Advisor

Patrick D. Pauken


The purpose of this study was to identify the personal and organizational characteristics that facilitate and restrict boundary spanning (BS) of external leaders. The study was a two-phase sequential exploratory mixed-method study. The first phase examined the relationship between boundary spanning and emotional intelligence (EI) of external team leaders. Through interviews, the second phase explored individual and organizational characteristics that facilitate or restrict boundary spanning in external team leaders who scored differently on boundary spanning than predicted based on emotional intelligence scores. Bivariate regression and correlation showed that boundary spanning is strongly related to emotional intelligence. Three external leaders were selected for Phase II because they had nearly the same EI alignment scores but very different BS alignment scores. I wanted to know why, if EI and BS have such a strong relationship, the BS scores of these three leaders were so different. Qualitative data from 14 interviews revealed that leader distance and need are both facilitators and restrictors of boundary spanning. Boundary spanning is not just something that the leader does for the team. Boundary spanning is important based on an individual’s need. If the need is low, the leader would offer less help and, therefore, the appraisal of the leader’s boundary spanning would be lower. Also, the leader must understand when there is a need and how to react to the need by offering the appropriate help for the appropriate duration. The ability of the leader to understand the need of the team members requires relationship building. Relationship building is made easier when the leader distance (physical proximity, social distance, and perceived occurrence interval) is low. As emotional intelligence increases, so does the ability to recognize and utilize need and distance to span the boundary for the team. Boundary spanning is important on both individual and organizational levels. Organizations must learn to set the environment to facilitate boundary spanning as a valued part of the culture. Individuals must increase their own level of boundary spanning awareness and practice so that as superiors, as external leaders, or as team members they can reduce leader distance, understand need, and negotiate the most effective individual and team relationships for high performance.