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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 Definition[edit]

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 definition[edit]

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 qualified[edit]

1. Actions of leaders[edit]

  • 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 leaders[edit]

  • 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 leadership[edit]

  • 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” definition[edit]

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.

Summary to the Leadership Development Plan[edit]

The Leadership Development Plan is published and invites your feedback! Read the summary below for an overview of the resource, please find the full Leadership Development Plan here.

Read the full Leadership Development Plan in pdf format.


The Leadership Development Plan is a practical resource for emerging and existing leaders across the Wikimedia movement who want to develop themselves and others. Its purpose is to surface, encourage and grow effective leadership. Through a year of collaboration and community consultation, the Leadership Development Working Group – a global and diverse community working group responding to Movement Strategy’s “Invest in Skills and Leadership Development” recommendation – published a leadership definition and now the Leadership Development Plan. As volunteers ourselves, we know how precious and limited your time is, so we have created a resource that aims to be easy to use, practical, and flexible. The resource consists of tools, concepts, and recommendations for leadership development. It is written with a global and cross-movement lens and invites you to contextualize and localize it.

What to Expect[edit]

The resource contains three sections:

Highlights from Section 1[edit]

  • Definition: Effective leadership is “the ability to guide, inspire, build autonomy, encourage and motivate a group of people towards a shared goal or common vision.” It means demonstrating leadership qualities and actions such as empathy, trust-building, and abilities to create supportive environments for others to thrive. These leadership skills and qualities are attainable and available to everyone, no matter one’s position or experience level, and they are necessary for all leaders across the movement.
    Leadership Skills Diagram
  • Leadership skills: Leadership skills are a set of soft skills that allow one to encourage, motivate, and develop others. By soft skills, we mean personal attributes and social skills. These are different from hard skills, which are technical, administrative, task-specific, or role-specific skills[1]. Though both soft and hard skills are necessary for effective leadership, in this resource, we focus on leadership (soft) skills and argue that they are relevant in all Wikimedia contexts where leadership appears, regardless of role or responsibilities. Based on the leadership definition, these leadership skills include internal qualities such as courage, resilience, focus, and accountability; and outward actions such as trust-building, setting a shared vision, and guiding collaborative decision-making. The Leadership Skills Diagram (see image) depicts a (non-comprehensive) list of Wikimedia leadership skills.
  • Leadership roles: In the Wikimedia movement, leadership appears in different contexts and leaders hold different roles, whether formally or informally. In order to develop a common understanding of where and how leadership surfaces in the movement, we’ve identified a list of contexts and their respective roles. This is not an exhaustive or prescriptive list and acknowledges that there are many roles that overlap or aren’t visible.
  • Skills assessment: based on the leadership definition and skills, the Leadership Skills Assessment is a tool you can readily use to self-assess and reflect on your leadership strengths and areas for improvement.

Highlights from Section 2[edit]

  • Burnout and managing stress: Burnout, a syndrome resulting from “chronic workplace stress,”[2] is characterized by a decline in psychological, emotional, and physical well-being intensified by feelings of hopelessness.[3] In the Wikimedia movement, burnout is a relevant issue for leaders, both in managing their own risks of burnout as well as those of colleagues. The section shares a few examples of Wikimedia initiatives addressing burnout as well as strategies for navigating and discussing burnout.
  • Encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in leadership: Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are terms that refer to how power is distributed in any setting where human interactions take place. Diversity refers to the physical presence or representation of individuals with different backgrounds, identities, and experiences. Inclusion is the involvement of individuals and groups, particularly those who are excluded or prevented from using their voice, in policies, practices, and decision-making. Equity is about just treatment and fair access or distribution of resources for individuals and groups; it is the effort of transforming social, political, and economic systems of oppression and injustice. The section shares a few examples of Wikimedia initiatives addressing DEI as well as strategies for encouraging and discussing it.
  • Toxic or ineffective leadership: Toxic or ineffective leadership refers to individuals or groups who have responsibility over a group or organization and abuses the leader-follower relationship.[4] There are common traits to identify toxic leadership, such as possessing unrealistic expectations and dishonesty, acting in self-serving ways, and having a dependency on hierarchies. The section shares examples of the impact of such leadership and includes recommended strategies and tools for approaching toxic or ineffective leadership in oneself and others.
  • Self-assessment and continuous learning: Self-assessment and continuous learning help leaders grow their capacities to lead. They allow you to routinely gain new knowledge and skills to adapt and improve the ways you support your communities. The section shares information about when to perform self-assessments as well as methods to do so, including 360-degree feedback, reflection journals, and creating personalized assessments based on your specific learning goals.
  • Passing on knowledge and mentorship: When experienced leaders make efforts to capture and share knowledge, they ensure lessons are retained and prepare future leaders. There are several ways to pass on knowledge, including establishing onboarding processes, using knowledge-sharing platforms, and mentorship. To highlight one method, mentorship is a key and common way that knowledge is transferred in the Wikimedia movement. The section shares examples of mentorship and further resources to explore.

Highlights from Section 3[edit]

Do you want to create a leadership development initiative but don’t know how to begin? Or maybe you are an experienced mentor or trainer but haven’t found the time to document and share your learnings with others yet? If this resonates, then this section is for you. The section shares a process for creating a leadership development initiative – whether it be a program, workshop, guidebook, or any other format. It guides you through the steps of defining your initiative’s focus and audience, preparing materials, delivering the initiative, and following up afterward. Here are the steps:

  1. Define: Defining your initiative involves clarifying all its aspects, including the audience, outcomes, content, format, resources, and project plan. In this step, you are invited to use a Leadership Development Canvas and are guided to fill it out. You will find other tools such as a Leadership Development Syllabus Example to determine the contents of your initiative and a Learning Delivery Formats Selection Tool to make decisions about the delivery format.
  2. Prepare: once your initiative is defined, you prepare for delivery. This includes securing financial and human resources, developing learning materials, and creating a call for participants. You will find tools such as Application Guidelines to access funding through the WMF and a Job Description Template to determine the people you need in your team.
  3. Deliver: delivering your initiative is next. For synchronous initiatives, this is the moment learners experience your materials. For asynchronous initiatives, this is the moment you publish. You will find tools such as a guide for leading groups online and tips for effective facilitation.
  4. Follow up: after your leadership initiative is complete, it’s important to keep the momentum going through building learning networks, evaluation, improving the initiative for next time, and sharing your learnings. You will find tools such as a guide for sharing your learnings through case studies and a Sample Evaluation Survey to gain insights from your participants.