Distributed Leadership

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“Distributed Leadership” differs from others as it does not involve a leader and many followers. Rather the situation is of many leaders, who are followers simultaneously/inter-changeably. It lacks a universally accepted definition (Wright, 2008). These theories have been dated back to 1250BC (Oduro, 2004, p. 4) and consider leadership to be a collective social process (Leadership as Process (Grint, 2005)) developing from the interactions between several people (Uhl-Bien, 2006). It is considered to be “more appropriately understood as a fluid and emergent, rather than as a fixed, phenomena” (Gronn P. , 2000, p. 324) i.e. roles are not specifically designated; they emerge through the interactions and negotiations of participants. As acknowledged in situational theories, Spillane (2001) states that leadership activity is constructed through the interaction between leaders, followers and the situation. In this case, people lead and follow depending on their experience in each situation. This suggests a reliance on personal power (Yukl, 2002). Gronn’s (2002) “holistic perspective” of Distributed Leadership shows how it is an emergent process whereby intuitive working relationships are formed over time and decisions are made collectively. This collective decision-making structure is often exhibited in committee structures. Mehra et al. (2006) have shown that teams exhibiting distributed leadership as opposed to traditional leader-centred approaches are more successful (judged by sales performance and team satisfaction). While popularly recognisable or charismatic leaders are often held up as heroes; it tends to go unacknowledged that they rely on the support of several other leaders (Bolden R. , 2011). Involving everyone in the decision-making process can be slower, but also encourages equality within the work force (MacBeath & Oduro, 2004) and empowers people to push their organisation in a direction that allows them to find personal meaning and achieve their own higher-order needs (Maslow, 1954).

Distributed leadership theories claim leadership to be a collective social process. The roles of leader and follower emerge and change depending on the requirements of a situation and the experience of those involved, indicating a reliance on personal power. Teams that exhibit distribution appear to be more successful than more leader-centred organisation and allow followers to achieve their higher order needs. However, the attraction of followers based on how they relate to the organisation is uncertain. Therefore it seems that distributed leadership has some applicability to community and voluntary organisations.

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