Leadership Development Working Group shares a summary of the leadership definition feedback period: key questions, concerns and suggestions

Overview

On 15th September 2022, the Leadership Development Working Group published a draft definition of leadership for community feedback and review. We received responses, questions, and suggestions from community members across the Wikimedia movement. The working group synthesised and analysed the feedback, made edits and amendments to the definition content, and published the revised version of the definition on Meta-wiki on 20th October 2022. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback!

Since then, we have hosted two global community calls to share highlights from the feedback period. We also took this opportunity to listen to first-hand experiences and stories of leadership in various community contexts around the world. 

In the following sections, we share a summary of the feedback highlighting the main themes and sentiments.

Quantitative feedback highlights

Through the Movement Strategy Forum and a survey, we collected feedback through various channels and languages. The survey was shared in 15 languages on Meta-wiki, geographic and thematic mailing lists, social media groups, and directly with groups and individuals. We also hosted local community calls and two global calls to collect feedback.

Across platforms, we engaged at least 140 community members. One of the main questions we asked was: do you agree with the definition? The draft leadership definition includes two parts: 1) a broad overarching definition and 2) further details of the actions, qualities, and outcomes of leadership.

Feedback on the broad overarching definition

We asked for feedback on each sentence of the section and observed, on average, 86% agreement with the overarching definition. You can see the results in the graph below.

Feedback on three categories through which leadership could be further qualified

We further detailed the definition by drafting actions, qualities, and outcomes of leadership. To allow us to better understand to what extent our qualification of leadership resonates with community members, we asked community members for feedback on each sub-point. On average, there was 68-77% agreement with this section of the definition. The below graphs show the results in more detail.

Qualitative feedback themes

We asked members to share their questions, concerns and suggestions on how to improve the definition. In this section, you will find a qualitative overview of the responses we received. The feedback we received concerns five main areas: 

  1. the purpose and scope of the definition
  2. the role of hierarchy 
  3. the influence of cultural differences on leadership (practices) 
  4. wording-related concerns 
  5. clarifications on how the definition could be implemented

1. Purpose and scope of the definition

We received a few comments seeking clarification on the purpose and scope of the leadership definition. We realised that we needed to be more explicit in our context setting for the definition. Consequently, we incorporated a note prefacing the purpose of this definition to serve as a guide for our subsequent aims to build and implement a leadership development plan, as well as function as a suggestion for individuals and communities anywhere seeking to strengthen leadership in their contexts. 

2. The role of hierarchy

Many expressed their concern that the idea of leadership conflicts with the decentralised and distributed spirit of the movement. While the draft definition already stated that “leadership is not tied to a specific position or role”, we decided to further emphasise this point by directly referring to said values of the movement and certain passages with connotations suggesting hierarchical structures. For instance, we replaced “Guiding and supporting”, which suggests a top-down approach, with “contribute”, which opens up space for a more collaborative decision-making culture.

Another point of clarification was on the connection between individual capabilities and contributions versus the collective effort. In the revised definition, we decided to explicitly indicate that individual actions and skills are intrinsically tied to building collective knowledge and taking collaborative decisions, especially within the Wikimedia context.

3. The influence of cultural differences on leadership qualities

Some community members asked for a more in-depth account of the influence of culture on leadership, especially regarding the actions and qualities of leaders. We set out to deliver a definition that provides clarity about what leadership is and yet, came to the conclusion that leadership “manifests differently depending on linguistic and socio-cultural contexts”. We understand that this might be unsatisfyingly vague for some, but we decided not to make a change to the definition. Rather, to react to this, as well as other questions and concerns not expressly addressed in the definition itself, we created a dedicated Frequently Asked Questions section where we outline how to make sense of the definition.

4. Clarifications on Wording

Some formulations in the definition draft were perceived as overly broad, sometimes unclear and even misleading. For example, characterising leadership as a “complex phenomenon” was controversial: for some, the word “phenomenon” suggested that leadership occurred more or less naturally without any deliberate action; the word “complex”, on the other hand, does not hold much descriptive value and remains vague. We reacted to these points by removing the word “phenomenon” altogether and substituting “complex” with “multi-faceted”, which better captures our idea of leadership being variable depending on its context.

5. Practical concerns on implementation and next steps

We received several questions and comments on how this definition could be practically implemented in community contexts. We received comments about grant decisions, transparency and holding leadership accountable. We have attempted to answer some of these questions in the Frequently Asked Questions section “How to make sense of the ‘leadership’ definition”, which is meant to be read in conjunction with the definition. 

Having said that, the definition remains a broad guide on the values and qualities currently observed and those that are aspired to in the Wikimedia movement. This definition is a starting point for the Leadership Development Working Group as we now jump into drafting a leadership development plan which will address more concrete examples of how this definition can be utilised in our diverse regional, linguistic, and socio-political contexts in the movement. One of our first steps in this next phase is to gather information and input from community members regarding leadership initiatives, roles, and learnings. More information to come shortly, so stay tuned! 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://diff.wikimedia.org/2022/11/18/leadership-development-working-group-shares-a-summary-of-the-leadership-definition-feedback-period-key-questions-concerns-and-suggestions/
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