Distributed leadership: implications for the role of the principal

Alma Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to focus on distributed leadership in schools and explore the implications arising from this model of leadership for those in formal leadership positions. It considers how the role of the principal, in particular, is affected and changed as leadership is more widely shared within the organization. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws upon a wide range of research literature to explore the available empirical evidence about distributed leadership and organizational outcomes. The analysis focuses particularly on the evidence base concerning distributed leadership and student learning outcomes. Findings – This analysis of the available evidence highlights the potential for distributed leadership to make a difference to organizational change and improvement. It suggests that principals need to relinquish power and authority; that there is an inevitable shift away from leadership as position to leadership as interaction and that principals will need to build a high degree of reciprocal trust to negotiate successfully the fault lines of formal and informal leadership practice. Originality/value – The paper contributes a contemporary overview of literature about the impact of distributed leadership and analyses the implications for the role of the school principal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Management Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2011


  • Distributed leadership
  • Educational policy
  • Principals
  • Schools


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