Schools are hungry for leaders who can transform the school culture for the better. The distributed leadership theory holds that educational leadership is often not held in one person, but is instead distributed among multiple individuals. A body of leadership has multiple individuals who have the tools and skills to contribute to the success of the organization.
Distributed leadership is also called team leadership, shared leadership or democratic leadership. In some situations, a school has multiple leaders. In other situations, leadership is not a specific position but is instead an attribute that arises in different individuals throughout the organization. Distributed leadership focuses on leadership practice rather than specific leadership roles. These leadership practices occur when those in authoritative and subordinate positions interact with each other.
With distributed leadership, responsibilities are distributed among multiple staff members. For example, an upper-level administrator might periodically visit an organization to evaluate and provide feedback to a teacher. However, other administrators in the organization might not view this evaluation period as enough to effectively develop the staff member under review and might arrange for lower-level administrator to also evaluate the staff member more frequently.
Division of Responsibilities
Sometimes, leadership is distributed more literally with leaders distributing tasks among each other. For example, a literary coordinator can create student assessment instructional materials, teachers could provide the assessment to the student and a literary coordinator scores the test. Then, the literary coordinator meets with the principal to discuss the results.
Benefits of Distributed Leadership
Helen S. Timperley argued in Curriculum Studies that schools should not rely on one leader to solve all the problems in a particular school because few individuals have the these abilities. Also, any policy modifications made by the leader will fall apart when the leader is not available to maintain these modifications. However, if the changes are implemented by several leaders who agree to the changes, these leaders can all work together to maintain them. Also, instead of managing these modifications, leaders can change the norms, principals and beliefs held by the members of the school so that all the staff members will maintain the changes. But to change these beliefs, the leadership must change the overall school culture, which can only occur through face-to-face interactions.
Leithwood, et al. viewed distributed leadership as a subset of transformational leadership. Spillane, et al., on the other hand, argued that all forms of leadership are distributed. Transformational leadership refers to leadership that stands in contrast to the more traditional transactional leadership, where the leader delegates tasks to subordinates. With transformational leadership, the leader is instead focused on bringing about positive changes within the staff members.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images