Richard Hatcher: Distributed leadership and managerial power in schools in England

Richard Hatcher: Distributed leadership and managerial power in schools in England

One of the central themes of current academic school management and leadership discourse is the notion of distributed leadership. Alma Harris, for example, says that ‘Leadership is a shared and collective endeavour that engages all members of the organisation (Harris, 2003a, p75) ; ‘this mode of leadership challenges the conventional orthodoxy of the single, individualistic leader’ (Harris, 2003b, pp2-3). Distributed leadership is also central to the Leadership Development Framework adopted by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL, 2001). According to Peter Gronn, ‘distributed leadership is an idea whose time has come’ (Gronn, 2000, p333).

What is the problem to which distributed leadership is claimed to provide the solution ? In brief it is this : the government is engaged in a profound transformation of the school system from a social democratic to a neoliberal system whose primary objective is the production of human capital for economic competitiveness. This in turn requires the replacement of the old bureaucratic-professional system of management by a regime of performativity. This is a difficult business. Schools have to be re-engineered and re-cultured. The minds and the hearts of teachers have to be won. Distributed leadership is a means to achieve both cognitive integration and cultural integration. Cognitive integration because the work process in schools has become much more complex and inter-dependent. Cultural integration because, it is argued, the compliance of teachers is most effectively accomplished by securing their commitment, and one means to achieving this is through forms of participation. (Sigue)

L'École Démocratique, 03/04/05