Language and power in self-organizing distributed teams

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


OCIS Division, Academy of Management Conference, Atlanta, GA (2006)




In this paper, a comparative case study is conducted to explore the way power is expressed and exercised through language use in distributed or virtual teams. Our research questions are “how is power expressed in online interactions in self-organizing distributed teams, in a context without formal authority or hierarchy?” and “What effects do expressions of power have on team outcomes?” To fully understand the role of power in self-organizing teams, we apply an input-process-output model on two open source projects-one successful and the other less successful. Two set of codes (source of power and power mechanism) are drawn from the data, and different power patterns interestingly show up between them. The findings lead us to speculate that strong, centralized leadership, the assertive exercise of power, and direct language may contribute to effectiveness in FLOSS teams. And the relevant conclusions and suggestions are provided for further research.


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