Distributed Leadership for Equity & Learning Toolset

Leadership is a characteristic of an organisation as a whole, not just the individual actions of the few who are labelled 'leaders'. Distributed leadership is based on the proposition that whatever we may think, the reality of life in organisations is that leadership is the outcome of lots of people's actions and interactions. The power of senior leaders is mediated by what people do, or do not do, across the organisation.



What is distributed leadership for equity and learning (DLE)?

DLE is leadership which is enacted by everyone in the school, emerges from a supportive set of organisational features and works for inclusive, holistic learning.


DLE includes leadership by students, teachers and support staff, each of whom brings their unique skills, ideas and experience, and emerges from a particular combination of supportive organisational features.

A video by Amanda Roberts and Philip Woods (University of Hertfordshire, UK).

Supportive organisational features
A participatory culture

A participatory culture

A culture that views leadership as emergent, values participation and has an explicit commitment to core equity and democratic values of inclusive participation and holistic growth and well-being
An enabling institutional structure

An enabling institutional structure

An institutional structure that facilitates and supports leadership from across all parts of the organisation
An open social environment

An open social environment

A social environment in which people are valued for what they each individually bring to the work of the organisation, and positive relationships between people across status and other organisational boundaries are readily established to initiate and develop change
Core values of equity, democratic citizenship and holistic learning
Distributed leadership for equity and learning involves explicit commitments to core values of equity and democratic citizenship, which includes the development of deep and holistic learning. This is a defining characteristic of distributed leadership for equity and learning. For DLE to work fully, the importance of these core values should be recognized and shared widely in the school.
Core values

Core values

  • Inclusive participation, so that the voice of all is heard and valued, and critical questions are asked systematically and continually about who has fewer opportunities, whether based on racial, sexual, cultural or other forms of discrimination that work against equity
  • Holistic growth & well-being for all, anchoring distributed leadership in a deep and holistic understanding of human growth that frames learning
  • Equity

    Equity

    The absence of discrimination and unfair power differences that mean that some people are unable to participate and be heard, are not given respect, are economically deprived and are blocked from developing their full capabilities.
    Deep and holistic learning

    Deep & holistic learning

    Learning that develops cognitive and emotional abilities, skills for employment, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual capabilities, an understanding of democratic citizenship and appreciation of values such as justice and tolerance, and fosters the ability to reflect and learn continually throughout life.
    Degrees of distributed leadership

    Degrees of distributed leadership
    Distributed leadership for equity and learning (DLE) can exist side by side with formal hierarchical relationships. DLE is not a feature an organization either possesses or does not possess, but is a characteristic that can be present to a greater or lesser extent: in other words, there can be degrees of DLE.

    It is helpful to see these degrees of DLE as stretching along a continuum. At one end, DLE is fully developed and in its most democratic form: this is the same as democratic leadership based on a model of holistic democracy. At the other end, the opposite of DLE is what we call rigid hierarchical leadership (RHL).

    A video by Amanda Roberts and Philip Woods (University of Hertfordshire, UK).

    Some schools may have leadership which is exactly like the rigid hierarchical leadership described in the box. Many schools will have some but not all of the characteristics of rigid hierarchical leadership. Some may have begun to develop a more distributed approach to leadership. Most schools will have scope to introduce or to develop further distributed leadership. Few schools will have introduced distributed leadership for equity and learning.