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School Development Service

Leadership and Management


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Building Leadership Capacity

Distributing Leadership

The complexity of the principal's task is such now that to meet the challenges of the agenda for change in the Northern Ireland education system the headteacher can no longer work successfully as a 'heroic leader'. Many aspects of the school's provision and practice are distributed to others who take on leadership roles in working with other staff. These roles may result from formal job descriptions eg Vice-principal, Key stage co-ordinator, head of year; however in other cases they may be undertaken for short periods of time for a particular purposes and not linked to a hierarchical post structure.

The experience of teachers who undertake such leadership roles is greatly enhanced and prepares them for even greater responsibilities within the school. Thus the capacity for leadership is developed in these individuals and within the context of the work of the whole school. In some schools between two thirds and three quarters of all staff may be underaking such leadership roles to the benefit of themselves, those they work with, the whole school and ultimately the NI system as good practice is shared.

For an in-depth examination of Distributed Leadership see Alma Harris - a Powerpoint presentation given to the 2008 Scottish International Summer School on 'School Leadership'.

See also George Oduro's thinkpiece on Distributed Leadership.
The paper addresses three main questions about distributed leadership.
Firstly, what meanings are attributed to the term distributed leadership within headteachers’ working vocabulary?
Secondly, do headteachers think of and practice distributed leadership in the same way as is suggested by experts in the field?
Thirdly, what issues do headteachers face in trying to ‘distribute’ leadership or create contexts in which leadership is dispersed?


For further thinkpieces and toolkits on 'Distributed Leadership' click here

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