Distributed Leadership, Trust and Online Communities
This paper analyses the role of distributed leadership and trust in online communities. The team-based informal ethos of online collaboration requires a different kind of leadership from that in formal positional hierarchies. Such leadership may be more flexible and sophisticated, capable of encompassing ambiguity and rapid change. Online leaders need to be partially invisible, delegating power and distributing tasks. Yet, simultaneously, online communities are facilitated by the high visibility and subtle control of expert leaders. This paradox: that leaders need to be both highly visible and invisible as appropriate, was derived from prior research and tested in the analysis of online community discussions using a pattern-matching process. It is argued that both leader visibility and invisibility are important for the facilitation of trusting collaboration via distributed leadership. Advanced leadership responses to complex situations in online communities foster positive group interaction and decision-making, facilitated through active distribution of specific tasks.
KeywordsDistributed leadership online communities paradox visibility invisibility e-learning case study pattern-matching ambiguity
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