Distributed leadership: democracy or delivery?

Andy Hargreaves (Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Dean Fink (Dean Fink Consulting Associates, Ancaster, Canada)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Publication date: 21 March 2008



This article aims to discusses the nature and benefits of lateral approaches to educational change, especially in the form of distributed leadership, that treat schools, localities, states, or nations, as “living systems” interconnected by mutual influence.


The paper presents a conceptual discussion of the interrelated ideas of living systems, communities of practice and networks. Research examples from England, North America, and Finland are used to underscore the article's argument.


The article underlines how, within this conception, distributed leadership operates as a network of strong cells organized through cohesive diversity and emergent development rather than mechanical alignment and predictable delivery. However, more deeply and more critically, the chapter also investigates whether, in practice, these lateral strategies are being used to extend democratic public and professional involvement in developing the goals and purposes of education or whether they are being primarily used as motivational devices to re‐energize a dispirited profession into producing more effective and enthusiastic delivery of imposed government performance targets?


The paper provides useful information on developments in distributed leadership.



Hargreaves, A. and Fink, D. (2008), "Distributed leadership: democracy or delivery?", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 229-240. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230810863280

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