Making Sense of Distributed Leadership: How Secondary School Educators Look at Job Redesign

Karen Seashore Louis, David Mayrowetz, Joseph Murphy, Mark Smylie


This paper examines how teachers and administrators who were involved in a multi-year effort to engage in distributed leadership interpreted their experiences. We lay out and apply an argument for using an interpretive perspective to study distributed leadership.

Collective sensemaking around distributed leadership is illustrated by an in-depth analysis of a single high school. The school was part of a larger study of six schools, and was selected to illustrate sensemaking over time in a large, complex school. There were three years of on-site interviews, observations and document analysis. We found that distributed leadership is a potential “disruption” to traditional patterns of leadership, work performance and influence in high schools. One-quarter of the school’s faculty engaged with the “disruption” but all had a chance to process the change. The end result was that many became sense-givers and kept the momentum for teacher leadership going during significant personnel turnover among faculty and administration. The success of the efforts to create more broadly distributed leadership was facilitated by its integration into an existing improvement initiative.

Palabras clave

Distributed leadership; collective sensemaking; job redesign

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IJELM- International Journal of Educational Leadership and Management | ISSN: 2014-9018

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