IBM is trying to answer a question of what kind of changes do business leaders in an increasingly distributed and virtual business environment need to prepare for and what kind of people would be best suited to lead in that kind of an environment. They went about studying potential impacts of such changing business environment by studying the behavior of large guilds and their leaders in World of Warcraft.
The study has a number of conclusions, well summarized in the HBR article and in the executive summary of the research report:
Conclusions include the following: leadership in the games includes all skills currently identified in the Sloan model, but puts a premium on the dimensions of Relating and Inventing. Leadership in the games happens fast, it encourages risk taking, it promotes temporary rather than permanent leadership roles, and there are numerous opportunities for leadership practice. The most important conclusion, however, was that game environments make leadership easier. Critical leadership features in game environments include virtual economies, transparency of metrics, and connection methods for inter-group communication.
We conclude with predictions about the future of games and leadership in the enterprise, including comments about how games will highlight qualities of digital interactions increasingly important for online leadership, and qualities of leadership unique to games.