Distributed Leadership, Trust and Online Communities

  • Jill Jameson
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5621)


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.


Distributed leadership online communities paradox visibility invisibility e-learning case study pattern-matching ambiguity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ball, S.: The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy 18, 215–228 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Boyd, D.M., Ellison, N.B.: Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1), article 11 (2007), (accessed February 27, 2009)
  3. 3.
    Crawford, M.: Enhancing School Leadership: Evaluating the Use of Virtual Learning Communities. Educational Management Administration & Leadership 30(4), 431–445 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Datamonitor The future of social networking: Understanding market strategic and technological developments. Technology Report, Datamonitor, New York (2001)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Denison, D.R., Hooijberg, R., Quinn, R.E.: Paradox & Performance: Toward a Theory of Behavioral Complexity in Managerial Leadership. Organization Science 6(5), 524–540 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Facebook Factsheet, (accessed February 27, 2009)
  7. 7.
    Hartley, D.: The Emergence of Distributed Leadership in Education: Why Now? British Journal of Educational Studies 55(2), 202–214 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Jameson, J.: The eLIDA CAMEL Model of Collaborative partnership: A Community of Practice in Design for Learning. In: Third International Conference on e-Learning (2008)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jameson, J., Andrews, M.: Trust and Leadership in the Learning and Skills Sector, CEL Research Report. Lancaster University, Centre for Excellence in Leadership (2008)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jameson, J.: Distributed Leadership and the Visibility/Invisibility Paradox in Online Communities. Human Technology Journal: Special Issue (2009) (forthcoming) Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Jameson, J., Ferrell, G., Kelly, J., Walker, S., Ryan, M.: Building trust and shared knowledge in communities of e-learning practice: collaborative leadership in the JISC eLISA and CAMEL lifelong learning projects. BJET 37(6), 949–968 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lambe, P.: Conflict, Gender and Identity in Online Communities (2006), (accessed December 15, 2008)
  13. 13.
    Handy, C.: The empty raincoat, making sense of the future. Arrow Books, London (1994)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lewis, M.W.: Exploring Paradox: Toward a More Comprehensive Guide. The Academy of Management Review 25(4), 760–776 (2000)MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lips-Wiersma, M.: Furthering Management and Spirituality Education through the Use of Paradox. Journal of Management Education 28, 119–133 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Plant, R.: Online Communities. Technology in Society 26(1), 51–65 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Salmon, G.: E-Moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. Kogan Page, London (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wenger, E.: Communities of Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Jameson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Education and TrainingThe University of GreenwichLondonUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations