Great leadership is at the heart of every high-quality public school. Within schools, leadership is most effective when it’s distributed among a team of individuals with different skillsets and experiences but a shared mission to spark and sustain a school-wide culture of learning and improved outcomes for students. These types of instructional leadership teams can drive positive change throughout a school.

Over the next few months, we will explore distributed leadership and what it means for schools. In this first installment of the series, we offer four key aspects of distributed leadership:

1) Within a school, distributed leadership (DL) often takes the form of an instructional leadership team. This team represents the larger school community, and each team member is involved because of their content and pedagogical expertise rather than their years of experience or formal leadership role in the school.

2) DL teams take on several important tasks in a school:

    • Supporting the development of high-quality teaching by leading content-specific, grade-level collaborative time;
    • Engaging teachers in cycles of observation, feedback, and reflection to adapt and refine their instruction to meet their students’ needs;
    • Teaching and modeling how to apply a continuous improvement mindset to teaching, learning, and leading; and
    • Tracking and monitoring student level data to ensure school-wide student progress;
    • Providing other relevant job-embedded professional learning supports.

3) Principals and assistant principals are critical to enabling and sustaining the work of DL teams. They do this by building the leadership capacity in the school and by creating the conditions where expertise can be spread across the school so that everyone can work individually and collectively to improve outcomes for students.

4) Distributed leadership is not about dividing tasks and responsibilities among individuals. Instead, DL is concerned with the interactions among individuals (leaders and those whom they lead) to drive instructional improvement and improved student outcomes through the development of high-quality teaching and a culture where all students can thrive.

Next month: How does distributed leadership support schools, principals, and teachers?