Importance of clarity, hierarchy, and trust in implementing distributed leadership in higher education

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 2022
Issue Date:
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University leaders are increasingly focused on management tasks and metrics, and distributed leadership has been broadly adopted as a way for leaders to navigate corporate management demands while also maintaining the collegial and communitarian character of the academy. This article discusses the findings of an indicative case study within a Faculty of an Australian University exploring the experiences of academic leaders in adopting distributed leadership. The findings highlight how a lack of agreed definitions, aims, and goals of distributed leadership constrained its adoption. The case study also contributes to understanding the roles of trust and hierarchy in how distributed leadership is experienced and their role in enabling or constraining distributed leadership. In the Faculty, academic leaders within Schools experienced distributed leadership as an exercise in delegating duties. In contrast, Faculty leaders were likely to perceive leadership as distributed although with varying degrees of success, with trust playing a key role in both groups. In highlighting the importance of clarity, hierarchy, and trust, the case study shows that there must be clarity around what distributed leadership is, what is being distributed, how it will be distributed, and trust in the implementation process and colleagues.
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