Distributed Leadership and Social Justice : A case study investigation of distributed leadership and the extent to which it promotes social justice and democratic practices (UK)
The concept of distributed leadership has come to have increasing influence in the last decade or so, attracting much scholarly exploration and research, generating diverse definitions and understandings. The theoretical perspective taken for the purposes of this study is that leadership is emergent and that it arises through complex, interactive processes and is not the preserve of senior roles designated with leadership authority. The aim of the research study is to investigate distributed leadership and perceptions of whether and in what ways it promotes or otherwise social justice and democratic practices. The study explores this in the context of one case study (secondary) school. The report concludes with five requirements which we suggest it would be helpful for policy-makers wanting to develop school leadership to reflect upon. Firstly, advancing the quality of school leadership requires developing the leadership capabilities of everyone in the school - both those who are in designated leadership positions and those (such as many teachers, support staff and students) who are not. Secondly, developing the leadership capabilities of all requires the development of school cultures and structures that provide the social, professional and institutional support necessary to create environments that facilitate individual initiative and collaborative working and learning. Thirdly, the development and sustaining of such school cultures and structures requires long-term investment by schools and by the governments and other agencies that support schools. Fourthly, distributed leadership requires respect for both autonomy (individual views, professionalism, creativity and needs) and authority (school purpose, goals, values and structures), which means school members helping to shape schools’ educational purposes, values, etc. as well as working within these. Fifthly, helping distributed leadership to be fair and of benefit to the learning of all requires it to be guided by a broad concept of social justice that encourages schools to ask critical questions about involvement (participative justice), respect (cultural justice), learning (developmental justice) and resources (distributive justice).