Effectiveness of shared leadership in Wikipedia
Objective: The objective of the paper is to understand leadership in an online community, specifically, Wikipedia. Background: Wikipedia successfully aggregates millions of volunteers' efforts to create the largest encyclopedia in human history. Without formal employment contracts and monetary incentives, one significant question for Wikipedia is how it organizes individual members with differing goals, experience, and commitment to achieve a collective outcome. Rather than focusing on the role of the small set of people occupying a core leadership position, we propose a shared leadership model to explain the leadership in Wikipedia. Members mutually influence one another by exercising leadership behaviors, including rewarding, regulating, directing, and socializing one another. Method: We conducted a two-phase study to investigate how distinct types of leadership behaviors (transactional, aversive, directive, and person-focused), the legitimacy of the people who deliver the leadership, and the experience of the people who receive the leadership influence the effectiveness of shared leadership in Wikipedia. Results: Our results highlight the importance of shared leadership in Wikipedia and identify trade-offs in the effectiveness of different types of leadership behaviors. Aversive and directive leadership increased contribution to the focal task, whereas transactional and person-focused leadership increased general motivation. We also found important differences in how newcomers and experienced members responded to leadership behaviors from peers. Application: These findings extend shared leadership theories, contribute new insight into the important underlying mechanisms in Wikipedia, and have implications for practitioners who wish to design more effective and successful online communities. Copyright
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