Explaining leadership in virtual teams: The case of open source software

TitleExplaining leadership in virtual teams: The case of open source software
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsGiuri, P, Rullani, F, Torrisi, S
Secondary TitleInformation Economics and Policy
Pagination305 - 315
ISSN Number0167-6245
Keywordscontributors, Human capital, leadership, roles, sourceforge, team

This paper contributes to the open source software (OSS) literature by investigating the likelihood that a participant becomes a project leader. Project leaders are key actors in a virtual community and are crucial to the success of the OSS model. Knowledge of the forces that lead to the emergence of project managers among the multitude of participants is still limited. We aim to fill this gap in the literature by analyzing the association between the roles played by an individual who is registered with a project, and a set of individual-level and project-level characteristics. In line with the theory of occupational choice elaborated by (Lazear, E.P., 2002. Entrepreneurship. NBER Working Paper No. 9109, Cambridge, Mass; Lazear, E.P., 2004. Balanced skills and entrepreneurship, American Economic Review 94, pp. 208-211), we find that OSS project leaders possess diversified skill sets which are needed to select the inputs provided by various participants, motivate contributors, and coordinate their efforts. Specialists, like pure developers, are endowed with more focused skill sets. Moreover, we find that the degree of modularity of the development process is positively associated with the presence of project leaders. That result is consistent with the modern theory of modular production (Baldwin, C.Y., Clark, K.B., 1997. Managing in an age of modularity. Harvard Business Review September-October. pp. 84-93; Mateos-Garcia, J., Steinmueller, W.E., 2003. The Open Source Way of Working: A New Paradigm for the Division of Labour in Software Development? SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Studies. Open Source Movement Research INK Working Paper, No. 1; Aoki, M., 2004. An organizational architecture of T-form: Silicon Valley clustering and its institutional coherence. Industrial and Corporate Change 13, pp. 967-981).


Empirical Issues in Open Source Software

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