I've heard the word "leadership" used a lot in WMF, synonymously with
"management" in my experience. That makes sense in a somewhat hierarchical
organization like WMF, although this model has received some criticism from the community
for allegedly excessive top-down thinking. I'm not familiar enough with the culture in
the WMF Office to comment about its strengths and weaknesses, but I would like to ask
questions about leadership in the community.
In the community, which is diffuse and where roles are highly flexible, there have been
some studies done done about leadership but the ones I know about usually focus on
hierarchies within the community, especially how people get chosen for administrator roles
on-wiki. As we are thinking about our online culture, we can be thinking about movement
leadership. Who are the leaders, how are they trained, how are they selected, what do they
do, what makes them effective, and how can they be given ongoing support and training? I
think many of us would agree that adminship and leadership are not always synonymous, and
there are many ways that people exercise leadership in non-hierarchical ways.
I hear frequently about stress from members of English Wikipedia's Arbcom, and I hope
WMF is thinking about how to train and support people who get chosen for such visible,
important, and often stressful volunteer roles.
I would also like to point out that Wikimedia is developing training materials for leaders
of chapters and programs.
Is there anyone at WMF who is taking a holistic view of community leadership and how to
understand, train and support it in ways that support the strategic plan goals?
Training that might be relevant could include how to create friendly spaces online,
resolve online conflicts, engage in cross-cultural communication, encourage strategic
thinking, influence change, and maintain morale. I think a series of five-minute training
modules could be helpful for online and offline volunteers, along with dedicating some
Program & Evaluation or Research time to understanding leadership in the
non-hierarchical community. These initiatives could help with encouraging teamwork and
collaboration online by influencing and training "leaders".
I would also be interested in hearing about how WMF thinks about "leadership"
internally, since there seems to be some community feeling that WMF's thinking about
leadership is incompatible with the community's. I don't have an opinion but I
would like to be more informed, and hopefully encourage WMF to think about how the
organization as a whole interacts with the community.