Effectiveness of shared leadership in online communities

Haiyi Zhu, Robert Kraut, Aniket Kittur

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

98 Scopus citations


Traditional research on leadership in online communities has consistently focused on the small set of people occupying leadership roles. In this paper, we use a model of shared leadership, which posits that leadership behaviors come from members at all levels, not simply from people in high-level leadership positions. Although every member can exhibit some leadership behavior, different types of leadership behavior performed by different types of leaders may not be equally effective. This paper investigates how distinct types of leadership behaviors (transactional, aversive, directive and person-focused) and the legitimacy of the people who deliver them (people in formal leadership positions or not) influence the contributions that other participants make in the context of Wikipedia. After using propensity score matching to control for potential pre-existing differences among those who were and were not targets of leadership behaviors, we found that 1) leadership behaviors performed by members at all levels significantly influenced other members' motivation; 2) transactional leadership and person-focused leadership were effective in motivating others to contribute more, whereas aversive leadership decreased other contributors' motivations; and 3) legitimate leaders were in general more influential than regular peer leaders. We discuss the theoretical and practical implication of our work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCSCW'12 - Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2012
EventACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, CSCW'12 - Seattle, WA, United States
Duration: Feb 11 2012Feb 15 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, CSCW


OtherACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, CSCW'12
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySeattle, WA


  • motivation
  • online communities
  • shared leadership
  • wikipedia


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