Contrary to the "one‑fits‑all" approach used in the literature on how to sustain virtual communities of practice (VCoPs), this paper advocates that successful management practices should be contingent upon their basic characteristics. More specifically, this study of eight virtual communities of practice investigates how the actions taken by the communities' leadership teams may influence their success. The results show that decisions regarding the operational leadership of a VCoP are crucial elements to counteract the challenges arising from its structuring characteristics. Among those decisions, the choice and availability of a leader and the support of a coach are shown to be crucial.
Keywords: Virtual community of practice, virtual group, leadership, knowledge sharing, organizational learning