Leadership Development Working Group/Content

This page will contain content that the working group drafts. This could include drafts of leadership definitions, the leadership development plan, reading material, etc.

Leadership DefinitionEdit

The Leadership Development Working Group published a draft definition in September 2022 and hosted a call for feedback. You can view the initial definition. The working group incorporated the feedback and drafted a revised definition which you will find below. This revised definition was published in October 2022.


We, the Leadership Development Working Group, have drafted a definition of leadership representing our members’ diverse community experiences and perspectives. We sought to formulate a definition that represents various contexts and cultures and reflects the values of the Wikimedia movement. It will guide our plans for implementing leadership in the movement and might serve you as a set of suggestions for your own efforts in this direction.

Broad overarching definitionEdit

Leadership can be understood as the ability to guide, inspire, build autonomy, encourage and motivate a group of people towards a shared goal or common vision.

Leadership is multifaceted: it manifests differently depending on linguistic and socio-cultural contexts.

Leadership is a collective effort: While the skills and qualities of the individual are a prerequisite, the way a group of people work together, take decisions and distribute responsibility is key to reaching a common goal or vision.

In the Wikimedia movement, the idea of Leadership may follow a decentralized approach of autonomous contribution, including but not limited to non-traditional forms of decision-making and inclusion of marginalized groups. In that sense, a “leader” is a person, position or group that takes the initiative to contribute to a specific cause.

Three categories through which leadership could be further qualifiedEdit

1. Actions of leadersEdit

  • Facilitating the setting of a shared vision through careful thought, discussion and decision-making.
  • Guiding and supporting collaborative decision-making for the community to create shared strategies to achieve their vision.
  • Contributing to a supportive environment for community members to bring forth creative ideas and new ways of doing things.
  • Generating and retaining trust within the community through transparency, inclusivity and autonomy of the group.
  • Inspiring, encouraging and motivating community members to experiment and take reasonably justified risks.
  • Identifying and, if possible, removing obstructions, ensuring they do not become a barrier to others.
  • Seeking to understand the skills and interests of other community members to support the use of their strengths best, creating a motivating environment.

2.Qualities of leadersEdit

  • Resilience: Ability to push through difficulties and challenges by reassessing strategies, changing methods and/or slowing down.
  • Steady growth: Willingness to try new ways of doing things and learn from mistakes made along the way.
  • Integrity: Adherence to agreed-upon values and norms.
  • Focus: Balancing the community’s needs with long-term and short-term goals, integrating consensus on the approach to achieve these goals.
  • Courage: Willingness to take calculated risks, not being afraid of making mistakes. Shielding community members who are in the process of learning from their failures. Promoting other people’s success.
  • Empathy: Ability to sense emotions, needs and desires of others and to (re-)act sensibly.
  • Accountability: Accepting responsibility for a set of duties; being mindful of time, place and persons related to those duties.
  • Effective Communication: Ability to listen to understand, and share necessary information through the appropriate channels, making sure the information is received and understood with clarity and purpose.

3.Outcomes achieved because of leadershipEdit

  • People feel safe to discuss mistakes and reflect on shortcomings in a constructive and empathetic way.
  • People feel valued, respected, and listened too.
  • People suggest new ideas and maintain a curious spirit.
  • People develop and achieve a common goal.

How to make sense of the “leadership” definitionEdit

What is the intention and background of the definition?Edit

Our goal was to find agreement and aspects of similarity in how we – members of different communities and regions – view, experience, and aim for leadership. We believe a unified view fosters alignment in the movement. So far, the movement has mainly grown out of many individual or local efforts, each in their own way, according to their knowledge of local circumstances (social, political, economical, cultural, etc). Through this effort, we have built something impressive, a mixture of bazaars and cathedrals that somehow work together. Though we have come far, the effort has been mostly separate. With this in mind, the Leadership Development Working Group is making a concerted effort to compare notes---so to speak---about the leadership process across the Wikimedia movement.

The definition is intended to clarify how effective leadership in the movement generally exists, and how it exists differently than in non-Wiki contexts (for instance, corporate leadership). To connect the definition with leadership theory, the theories that the draft definition is most influenced by are: Servant Leadership, Shared Leadership, Collaborative Leadership. In the definition, we explain that leadership in the movement is a collective, shared endeavor. While “leadership” can refer to one person, it does not have to and in our movement, we tend to view leadership in the collective sense. We revised the definition based on feedback to explicitly emphasize collective leadership, meaning groups of people leading.

Our intention is not to introduce a novel definition but to try to make explicit the kinds of leadership qualities, actions, and outcomes our movement values and aspires too. We hoped to identify what leadership looks like within our movement and then put that knowledge to use so that potential leaders and emerging communities don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Universality or culturally determined - what does this definition address?Edit

We recognize that leadership can surface in different ways depending on context and situation. This is addressed directly in the definition.

We considered the specificity of the definition and drafted it to be broad enough to be used by various individuals and groups. We recognize that leadership initiatives will take place on a local level and do not believe that a definition can truly be universal. We aimed however to create a shared definition that can act as a movement-wide guide and enable cross-sharing of learnings across communities.

How can the definition be used?Edit

We do not want to be prescriptive about how the definition is used. The use of this definition is not a demand but a recommendation and aspiration for better movement-wide coordination and alignment about how we view, value and develop leadership. It is also not a static definition. We expect it will evolve and improve with new movement insights and experiences.

The definition can be used to kickstart or prioritize conversations about leadership and community building; guide the design of leadership development initiatives; hold existing or emerging leadership accountable; and improve current leadership processes.

Next are some examples of how the definition can be used, including example reflection questions. (These are suggestions and do not represent a comprehensive list):

  • You are seeking a grant for a new capacity building project: use it to help guide your project’s design and evaluation
    • Ask: what are the best strategies to develop the qualities outlined in the leadership definition? Is the project addressing relevant and necessary leadership skills in your community?
  • You are forming a new user group or project: use it to construct a “job description” of the group or project’s leaders; use it to determine group agreements, values, and culture; or use it to inspire discussion about what would help improve group collaboration and communication.
    • Ask: how can we create a culture that embodies leadership qualities of collaborative design-making, trust, and accountability? What kind of leadership outcomes signal that we are working successfully? What do we value in our group or project’s leadership? What kind of leadership do we want to represent and show to others? What challenges do we face in acting according to the leadership qualities?
  • You are an event or campaign organizer: use it as a reflection guide about your skills and impact as an organizer; or use it to reflect on your participants’ needs
    • Ask: how can I improve my abilities as an organizer who enables participants to create and experiment? How can I host an event that inspires participants to continue contributing to Wikipedia after the event?
  • You are an on-wiki functionary: use it to hold yourself and others accountable
    • Ask: am I modeling leadership qualities of empathy and creating safety when I engage with others? Am I contributing to a supportive environment? Are there ways I can improve my leadership abilities or improve others’ leadership abilities?
  • You are an affiliate leader: use it to improve pathways and processes for supporting, evaluating, and recognizing leaders; use it to assess your organization’s skill sets and skill gaps; or use it to align your organization’s leadership with the values, culture, and mission with the broader movement.
    • Ask: how do we support the development of leadership qualities? Which qualities, actions, and outcomes do we prioritize as an affiliate? How can we recognize leaders within our affiliate who demonstrate our priority leadership qualities? How do we change our recruitment strategy to recruit for certain leadership qualities?
  • You are a new volunteer and want to become a community leader: use it to guide your skill development
    • Ask: where can I demonstrate leadership? How can I improve my skills? Who can I get feedback from about the impact of my actions?

Community groups are welcome to use this definition how they see fit. We continue to welcome insights about how the definition is used, how it is contextually altered, and how it might be improved.

What is next for LDWG?Edit

The LDWG plans to use this definition to inform a leadership development plan, which aims to determine practical actions and processes for leadership development Our hope is that the leadership definition and forthcoming leadership development plan can provide greater clarity, coordination and mobilization of leadership development initiatives.

In the upcoming months, LDWG will be looking into the leadership initiatives and needs that exist in the movement and begin drafting a leadership development plan that looks at leadership development priorities, pathways and structures. You can read more in the updates published each month.