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Ho, J., & Ng, D. (2017). Tensions in distributed leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 53(2), 224-254.
Purpose: Distributed leadership has grown in popularity over the past decade. Much of the literature to date has presented distributed leadership as a desired leadership practice and generally unproblematic. This paper suggests that the distribution of leadership encounters tensions within the hierarchical structure of schools, when leaders are faced with conflicting or overlapping goals, and organisational norms which govern the behavior of actors by prescribing role relations. The value of this paper is that it adds to the body of knowledge of distributed leadership, illustrating contexts in which leaders encounter tensions and how they resolve these tensions.
Research Methods: The study adopted a naturalistic inquiry approach involving the case study of a school in the process of implementing a project using Information Technology (IT) for instruction. The setting involved an elementary school in Singapore which was at the start of implementing an IT project at the Grade 4 level. The leaders identified included the principal, vice principals, and middle managers, including a senior teacher. Activity theory was used as the interpretative lens for data analysis. .
Findings: Tensions were identified between activity systems at the structural and at the process levels, mainly as a result of conflicting or overlapping needs or objectives. However, the existence of tensions also gave rise to innovative solutions to resolve such tensions. This paper highlights three ways in which tensions were balanced in the distribution of leadership.
This is the final draft, after peer-review, of a manuscript published in Educational Administration Quarterly. The published version is available online at
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