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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).

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V8J-4SRW10C-1/2/5ce36096ba3947338962268b54a5a7a9
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Information Economics and Policy.

Volume (Year): 20 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 305-315

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Handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:305-315
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505549

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  1. Edward P. Lazear, 2002. "Entrepreneurship," NBER Working Papers 9109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  4. Edward P. Lazear, 2004. "Balanced Skills and Entrepreneurship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 208-211, May.
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