A structurational perspective on leadership in Free/Libre Open Source Software teams

Publication Type:

Conference Proceedings


Proceedings of the 1st Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS), Genova, Italy (2005)


FLOSS, Leadership


In this conceptual paper, we present a structuration-based theory of leadership behaviours in self-organizing virtual distributed teams such as Free/Libre Open Source Software development teams. Such teams are often composed of members of relatively equal status or who are so disparate in background that formal organizational status seems irrelevant, reducing the usual leadership cues provided by organizational status and title. Building on a functional view of leadership and structuration theory, we suggest that leaders are individuals who develop team structures that then guide the actions of team members. Specifically, we examine structures of signification in the form of shared mental models, structures of domination in the form of role structures and structures of legitimation in form of rules and norms. The main contribution of our paper is the integration of various social theories to describe emergent leadership behaviours in distributed teams. We develop a set of propositions and illustrate with examples taken from Free/Libre Open Source Software development teams. We conclude by suggesting future research that might be conducted to test and further elaborate our theory.

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