Since the advent of information and communication technologies (ICT), distributed (virtual) teams have evolved as a new form of organizational network that promises high responsiveness, flexibility and cost-efficiency. In contemporary global business environments, almost all knowledge-intensive work is mediated by technology and is thus distributed to some degree. However, although well researched, performance in distributed teams remains a source of enduring challenge for researchers and practitioners alike. Distributed teams face high degrees of complexity and ambiguity, making them a common example of the ‘wicked’ problem environments that challenge modern organizations. Adaptive leadership promises a solution for such wicked environments. This is one of the first studies to employ a quantitative methodology to analyze the impacts of adaptive leadership on team performance. Structural equation modeling of data from 556 distributed team members in 29 countries revealed that adaptive leadership is positively related to performance through the mediating mechanisms of team trust, enhanced collaboration, and higher individual agency.