IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • Giuri, Paola
  • Rullani, Francesco
  • Torrisi, Salvatore


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).

Suggested Citation

  • Giuri, Paola & Rullani, Francesco & Torrisi, Salvatore, 2008. "Explaining leadership in virtual teams: The case of open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 305-315, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:305-315

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward P. Lazear, 2005. "Entrepreneurship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 649-680, October.
    2. Edward P. Lazear, 2004. "Balanced Skills and Entrepreneurship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 208-211, May.
    3. Masahiko Aoki & Gregory Jackson, 2008. "Understanding an emergent diversity of corporate governance and organizational architecture: an essentiality-based analysis -super-1," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-27, February.
    4. Juan Mateos Garcia & W. Edward Steinmueller, 2003. "The Open Source Way of Working: a New Paradigm for the Division of Labour in Software Development?," SPRU Working Paper Series 92, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Engelhardt, Sebastian v. & Freytag, Andreas, 2013. "Institutions, culture, and open source," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 90-110.
    2. Krieger, Alexander & Block, Joern & Stuetzer, Michael, 2018. "Skill variety in entrepreneurship: A literature review and research directions," MPRA Paper 88389, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Michiel Bijlsma & Paul de Bijl & Viktoria Kocsis, 2009. "Concurrentie, innovatie en intellectuele eigendomsrechten in software markten," CPB Document 181, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    4. Myriam Karoui & Aurélie Dudezert, 2010. "La collaboration centrée sur le partage de connaissances et de l'information au sein des équipes virtuelles : revue de littérature et perspectives de recherche," Post-Print hal-00509749, HAL.
    5. Clement Bert-Erboul & Nicholas S. Vonortas, 2018. "Personal And Social Proximity: Shaping Leadership In A Free Software Project," HSE Working papers WP BRP 84/STI/2018, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    6. Sebastian von Engelhardt & Andreas Freytag & Christoph Schulz, 2013. "On the Geographic Allocation of Open Source Software Activities," International Journal of Innovation in the Digital Economy (IJIDE), IGI Global, vol. 4(2), pages 25-39, April.
    7. repec:bla:stratm:v:37:y:2016:i:13:p:2589-2610 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Myriam Karoui & Ali Gürkan & Aurélie Dudezert, 2010. "Virtual Team Collaboration: A Review of Literature and Perspectives," Post-Print hal-00509753, HAL.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:305-315. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.