Making things click. Distributive leadership in an online division of an offline organization

Michael E. Brown, Dennis A. Gioia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The business model that looks likely to dominate the future in the wake of the convergence between Internet and traditional economies is the "bricks and clicks" organization. We conducted an in-depth study of the top executives of a prototypical Fortune 500 company's online division. We tracked and interviewed the president and other top management team (TMT) members over the first 22 months of the launch of the e-business venture. Our findings show that two contextual features, the extraordinary speed and the unsettling complexity/ambiguity of the online business environment, profoundly affected not only leadership requirements but also other key managerial processes, including communication, decision making, and vision. Within this disorienting context, two substantive themes emerged: (1) coping with organizational identity/image tensions with the offline parent organization and (2) becoming a holographic learning organization. We draw upon and extend some of the emerging literature on shared/relational and dispersed leadership to explain how dotcom leaders can adapt to the challenging contextual and substantive features of the e-business environment through the practice of distributive leadership, which we distinguish from prior related articulations of the concept.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-419
Number of pages23
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 12 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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