Woods's article details the origin and the progress of the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning (DLE). Woods's article focuses on the definitions of distributed leadership for equity and learning which he uses to build up an argument defining the key building blocks of the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning. In this article, Woods traces the path of the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning from its conception to its present state. The definitions that surround the concept are also analyzed and related to their impact. The article review will examine and evaluate the depth of the exploration of Woods ideas expressed in Distributed leadership for equity and learning. The review will evaluate the various aspects that Woods discusses in his article: social justice, democratic leadership and holistic democracy.
Woods article is based on the need to create a resource and guide based on the need to develop an effective, collaborative, participative and fulfilling education process for all individuals irrespective of their defining characters. Woods defines the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning and from the definitions, some important attributes arise. These attributes are social justice, democratic justice and holistic democracy. These attributes contribute to the wider perception of the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning. Their contribution o the greater discussion is that they form the core of the concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning. The impact of these components independently and dependably according to Woods form the core of concept of distributed leadership for equity and learning. The overall impact of the whole conceptualization was the development of a toolset for policy makers and practitioners who desire to educate themselves about and create distributed leadership in schools in a manner that advances social justice and democratic values.
According to Woods, the evidence that has been accumulated by European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL) based on research on distributed leadership carried out in Finland suggests that leadership should be used as a resource whose purpose is to be executed at all levels. The findings recognize that leadership is a complex process that arises from the interaction of complex processes as opposed to being imposed by the leaders. Woods sentiments are echoed by Hansen who argues that leadership is not a role that is restricted to the people in authority (1). Conceptualization of leadership spans beyond the boundaries of the authoritative figures. By regarding leadership as a function of the figures in authority, one fails to consider the talents and abilities of many others without ranks, authority or high status. Additionally, Hansen believes that in the school setting, influence is a key factor in determining outcomes of leadership(1). Where influence is a key factor, then the schools have numerous sources of influence, both formal and informal.
The European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL) identified a working definition of distributed leadership according to Woods. The definition describes distributed leadership as a multidimensional facet that includes a culture, institutional structure and hierarchal aspect. The culture of distributed leadership according to Woods is cognitive of leadership as a result of interactions in the wider sense of the organization as opposed to the responsibility based on the judgment of one leader. Additionally, distributed leadership promotes a culture that appreciates the views from all sections of the hierarchy. The facet of institutional structure in distributed leadership as observed by Woods is essential in extending the opportunities for leadership beyond the circle of formal senior roles and available to all cadres of the organization. In this way, Woods argues that the organization will be in a position to benefit from a variety of expertise and perspectives.
Woods argument of the elements of distributed leadership corresponds to Hallinger and Hecks view that the concept requires mobilization of skills from all levels of the organization for the benefit of the organization (19). Hallinger and Heck also opine that distributed leadership is aimed at providing more opportunities for change and improvement within the organization. It is an effort to utilize the internal capabilities to maximize the growth potential of the organization. There is significant similarity between the views of Woods, Hallinger and Heck. Distributive leadership is a concept that relies on the separation of leadership from an individual in authority and its attribution to the whole organization.
To summarize the definitions of distributive justice, it is observed as a model that banks on leadership by expertise as opposed to leadership that is attributed to the duration of experience. A transparent form of distributed leadership needs an advanced level of trust, openness and mutual respect. From a practical point of view, the effectiveness of distributed leadership is only guaranteed when it is meticulously planned and carried out (Leithwood, Mascall & Strauss 31). Distributed leadership does not take place by default. Even in the instance that it does, without it being built on a supportive framework, it stands the risk of collapsing on the organization (Harris 27). Subsequently, those in formal leadership roles are important in the development of suitable conditions for distributive justice to take place. The leaders in formal roles have the task of creating opportunities for other people to lead.
However, the above discussion was not comprehensive in defining distributed leadership. However, equity and social justice were vital components of the concept of distributed leadership that any application of distributed justice needed their input. Subsequently, as Woods observes the European Policy Network on School Leadership sought to solve the inadequately descriptive perception by further defining it. Researchers who put forward various definitions identified the gap in the definition. In the United Kingdom, European Policy Network on School Leadership carried out a survey that identified the need to incorporate a wider definition of distributed leadership as warranted by its possibilities and scope of practice.
Social justice and democracy are among the building blocks of distributed leadership. The scope of definition of social justice offered by Woods is that it is composed of four factors that are developmental, participative, cultural and distributive. Democracy and social justice are always related to a significant level. Holistic democracy avails a well detailed version of democratic leadership (Jones & Harris 2013). Holistic democracy involves a lot of participation and meaning. The main concepts of holistic democracy advocate for power sharing, transformational dialogue that involves freedom, mutual respect, holistic meaning and wellbeing are considered.
Woods goes on to show the connection between holistic demography and social justice. Participative dimensions have a high level of correlation to participative and cultural justice. Power sharing and transforming dialogue are two examples of participative justice principles. In the latter, existence of inequalities has an impact on those who are able to get their sentiments listened to and are regarded as initiators or revolutionists. The initiators can also be regarded as co-leaders.
Woods proposes that it is best to initiate varying degrees of distributed leadership. In the school and organizational settings researched on, the individuals in the institutions mostly were of the opinion that they preferred to have democratic leadership run the organization. Wood quotes Gronn who argues that a hybrid leadership that combines both hierarchy and distributed features is necessary. Risku and Tian carried out research on Finnish schools in a European Policy Network on School Leadership. The conclusion that Risku and Tian arrived at was that schools are and will always be significantly different from each other (24). In a similar UK study, the traditional, top-down system (hierarchy) was mentioned as much as the (holarchy) open and fluid relationships. In contribution to the ongoing debate, the holarchy is a shared social equality that means anyone can initiate change within the organization.
Woods article defines the concept of distributed leadership from a more advanced point of view to the conventional definition. Woods initiates the discussion by focusing on the different concepts that shape distributed leadership. Woods then identifies the interaction between these factors to create the concept of distributed leadership. Distributed Leadership is a skill that can be learned and carried out by anyone regardless of rank. Woods identifies organizations that have distributed leadership as organizations that have a participatory culture, an institutional structure that supports distributed leadership and an open social environment. Social equity, is an important aspect of a comprehensive distributed leadership scheme. Distributed leadership is a useful tool for organizations that want to improve the efficiency of leadership and capacity within their ranks.
Gronn, Peter. "Leadership configurations." Leadership 5.3 (2009): 381-394.
Hansen, S. Duane. "Ethical leadership: A multifoci social exchange perspective." The Journal of Business 10 (2011): 1.
Harris, Alma. Distributed school leadership: Developing tomorrow's leaders. Routledge, 2013.
Harris, Alma, and Michelle Jones. "Professional learning communities and system improvement." Improving Schools 13.2 (2010): 172-181.
Heck, Ronald H., and Philip Hallinger. "Assessing the contribution of distributed leadership to school improvement and growth in math achievement." American Educational Research Journal 46.3 (2009): 659-689.
Leithwood, Kenneth, Blair Mascall, and Tiiu Strauss, eds. Distributed leadership according to the evidence. Routledge, 2009.
Tian, Meng, Mika Risku, and Kaija Collin. "A meta-analysis of distributed leadership from 2002 to 2013 Theory development, empirical evidence and future research focus." Educational Management Administration & Leadership (2015): 1741143214558576.
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