"Business in general and high-tech in particular, has a much
flatter structure today than it had a couple of decades ago. All
the same, between titles and the power to make decisions, few
people in an office environment have any doubt where they stand in
relation to other people in the same company.
"But in FOSS projects, the ideal is a meritocracy, in which
people are judged by the work they have done, particularly
recently. Nor is the practice much different from the theory. While
most projects have a titular head, the style of leadership tends to
be hands-on, with those in authority first among equals. Look at
the Linux kernel mailing list, and you will see that even a
celebrity like Linus Torvalds is argued and questioned, even in his
areas of expertise.
"These different operating styles mean that both business
executives and FOSS need to modify their expectations to work
together. Executives cannot expect automatic respect, while those
from FOSS backgrounds need to recognize that, in a business
context, their normal interaction may come across to some people as
rude and insulting."