Nurturing democracy: the contribution of distributed leadership to a democratic organisational landscape

Philip Woods, P. Gronn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


This article reviews the comparative merits of distributed leadership and democratic leadership as understandings of, and preferred alternatives to, the leadership of and in organizations. It is particularly concerned that, while distributed leadership may provide a welcome and worthwhile respite from and alternative to the kind of heroic orthodoxy that has been calculated to secure organizational membership control and compliance, distributed leadership entails a democratic deficit. The core components of these two conceptions of leadership, the points of connection and tension between them, the conditions that might facilitate or impede their realization, and the problems and possibilities entailed in their attainment are discussed. Neither the purpose nor the claim of this article is to resolve the complex questions concerned with democracy and leadership in organizations generally, or schools in particular. Its case is that the influential notion of distributed leadership needs to be interrogated critically from the perspective of a concern with building organizations that are more democratic and respectful of the human status of their members and other stakeholders. It concludes by suggesting a multi-stranded approach for educational leaders and policymakers concerned to advance the democratic potential of distributed leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-451
JournalEducational Management Administration & Leadership
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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