Distributed Leadership and its Relationship with School Culture
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Distributed leadership in schools is formed and developed by the interactions that take place between the various informal and formal leaders in schools. Distributed leadership is effective when it is accepted by staff who are motivated to collaborate for the improvement of their school. School culture is important in this regard, as it sets the tone for attitudes, perspectives, dress code, and behaviour of leaders, staff, students and even community. In turn, distributed leadership can also affect the culture through the development and maintenance of norms, traditions, and myths. Thus, a reciprocal relationship between distributed leadership and school culture needs to be examined. The purpose of this project was to explore the perceptions of a school’s administrative and teaching staff regarding the extent at which leadership has been distributed, as well as the perceived relationship between distributed leadership and their school’s culture. A qualitative method was used, and was framed in a case- study format, consisting of seven in-depth, semistructured interviews with open-ended questions conducted with two administrators and five teachers in one elementary school in a faith-based publicly funded school board in Ontario. Findings from the administration and staff were analyzed according to the following themes: 1) organizational structures, 2) support and development, 3) collaboration, 4) motivation, 5) challenges, and 6) in/out groups. Data analysis revealed that administrative staff believed that for their model of distributed leadership to function, they were very dependent on whether or not the staff could be motivated to participate and volunteer the time and skills needed. Additionally, the administration seemed to rely more heavily on certain staff than others, creating a situation for in and out-groups at the school. Such in and out-groups at the school were found to have both positive and negative effects. With regard to the teachers, collaboration and ii motivation were two themes that played the most important role in the implementation and continued development of distributed leadership at Weston Catholic Elementary School [pseudonym]. Additionally, the teachers noted that with distributed leadership there was a greater focus on teacher freedom and their strengths and skills when it came to volunteering or other assigned roles. Finally, the data analysis pointed to a positive and beneficial relationship between distributed leadership and the school’s culture. By creating the distributed leadership model, teachers were provided with a variety of leadership opportunities, which in time, seemed to blossom into more impactful and formalized leadership roles.