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Leader behaviors in Facebook support groups: An exploratory study


Understanding the leadership of online support groups has emerged as an important new area of scholarship within support groups research. By analyzing leadership behavior used by Facebook support groups leaders, this paper explores an existing leadership model that has been applied to offline support groups. This research used qualitative methods based on in-depth interviews to document and analyze twenty-one Facebook support group leaders’ behaviors and offers a detailed contextual description of their behaviors. The interview guide was based on the “Leader Behavior Model” (LBM) developed by Lieberman et al. (1973) following observations of offline support group leaders holding face-to-face meetings. All group leaders participating in the interviews reported using at least one of the leader behaviors documented by Lieberman et al. (1973). The most frequently reported behaviors were Management Behavior and Support Behavior. Meaning Attribution behavior was also very widespread, and the leaders who used it described engaging in many activities relating to information, such as organizing information, producing and distributing information, and monitoring and deleting information. According to the interviews, the least common behaviors were Use-of-Self behavior and Evoke-Stimulate behavior. The overall conclusion is that Facebook support group leaders can use the Leader Behavior Model to shape and distinguish the groups they lead by acquiring a larger repertoire of possible behaviors and gaining exposure to the tools needed for creating better, safer, and even healthier online support groups on Facebook.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Tal Eitan.

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Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the Faculty’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) Committee of Bar-Ilan University and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Appendix 1: The Interview Guide

Appendix 1: The Interview Guide

The questions in the interview are based on the Leader Behavior Questionnaire (Lieberman et al., 1973), as translated and presented by Shechtman and Toren (2009) and adapted to fit the topic and research audience.

The interview opens with questions of initial acquaintance and obtaining the consent of the interviewee. The questions that appear in this guide are the basic questions from which additional, clarifying, supplementing, or expanding questions may be derived during the interview itself.

# Categories The question
0.1 General open-ended questions for initial acquaintance and evaluation Please tell about yourself
0.2 Please tell about the group you lead
0.3 Describe in as much detail as possible what you do in your group.
0.4 How do you experience the role of a group leader?
0.5 What makes a support community successful?
0.6 What does a support community leader need to do on a daily basis in order to have a good community?
1.1 Evoke-Stimulate behavior What is the role of a group leader in creating engagement and discussions?
1.2 How do you encourage group participants to engage in existing discussions?
1.3 Do you bring up topics for discussion on your own initiative? Tell me about it
2.1 Meaning-Attribution behavior What is your impact on group members? How is this reflected?
2.2 How do you influence the worldview of team members?
2.3 How do you help group members process information, make decisions, interpret and evaluate reality?
2.4 What kind of information goes through the group and how do you see your role within it?
3.1 Support-Caring behavior Does the community play an emotional role for the members?
3.2 Your group is a support group. How does it manifest itself?
3.3 How do you feel your leading behavior supports the group members?
4.1 Executive-Management behavior How do you perceive / experience the administrative managerial role of the group? How does it manifest itself?
4.2 Does the group have any rules of behavior? How do you enforce them?
4.3 What do you do to prevent unwanted behaviors?
5.1 Use-of-Self behavior Do you think leaders of support groups should share with members the things they are going through and talk about themselves and their lives?
5.2 Do you share with the group personal things from your past or your daily life?
5.3 What is your level of openness and exposure to the group?

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Eitan, ., Gazit, T. Leader behaviors in Facebook support groups: An exploratory study. Curr Psychol (2021).

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  • Facebook
  • Support groups
  • Online leadership
  • Social media