Professor James Spillane explains why he considers distributive leadership a fascinating topic and essential to successful school leadership.
Author: Professor James Spillane, the School of Education and Social Policy at North-western University, Illinois
Date: 9 October 2015
Most societies develop an early fixation with heroes and heroines; their charisma, gallant acts, and superhuman traits are the subject of folklore, fiction, and social science writing. Much of the literature on leadership falls into this tradition, the ‘heroic leader paradigm.’
This cognitive framework is leadercentric, focusing on the traits, characteristics, and behaviours of leaders. Heroes and heroines matter, but the heroic leader paradigm sets organisational leaders up for disaster, especially when it comes to managing human development work such as teaching, counselling, and social work.
An alternative perspective is needed to face the challenges of leading and managing in a new century. A distributed perspective is a lens or conceptual tool for thinking about leadership and management in organisations, not a blueprint for doing leadership per se, but a framework to guide and focus diagnosis and design work as organisational leaders.