Distributed Leadership and Social Justice: Images and meanings from different positions across the school landscape

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This paper reports data from a study investigating distributed leadership (DL) and its relationship to social justice and democratic values. The research comprised a case study of a UK secondary school, which describes itself as having a finely distributed leadership culture, and involved teaching staff, non-teaching staff, senior leaders and students who took part in an arts-based method of data generation (collage creation) and interviews. The study examined participants’ meanings and perceptions in relation to leadership and social justice. Our analysis of the data highlights contrasting image patterns (hierarchical and holarchic); a dominant view of DL as the exercise of pro-active agency, but also awareness of ways in which this is unequally spread across the school; and the value of seeing DL as comprising multiple features each of which may be distributed differently. This paper concentrates on participative and cultural justice. It suggests that work on further delineating multiple aspects of DL would be valuable, and that attention needs to be given not only to developing flexibility of institutional structures, but also core cultural values (social justice and democracy) and holarchic social environments in which relationships are fluid, supportive and encourage belonging and independent thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-155
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2016


  • democracy and education
  • educational administration
  • organisational culture
  • equity
  • policy
  • leadership theory and development


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