Exploring distributed leadership in an English university

Fung, Dilly and Floyd, Alan (2015). Exploring distributed leadership in an English university. In: SRHE Annual Research Conference, 9-11 Dec 2015, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport in South Wales, United Kingdom.

URL: https://www.srhe.ac.uk/conference2015/abstracts/02...


In the UK and elsewhere, the idea of ‘distributing leadership’ in universities is becoming more popular. Yet, there is surprisingly little research on this topic. This paper reports on a funded study which explored how one institution had implemented a newly conceived ‘distributed’ leadership model, specifically to investigate the impact of the model on the academics who had taken on the new leadership positions within the university. The study adopted an exploratory, sequential mixed methods design with in-depth interviews (n=30) being undertaken first, followed by an online survey (n=177). The findings suggest that the challenge of ‘distributed leadership’ in universities is complex on a number of levels: the plurality of the institutional mission; the diversity of possible leadership/management roles; the challenge of effective communication; and the effects of traditional academic values and identities, which may support but may also be antithetical to the strategic direction of the institution.

Keywords: identity; university purpose; values; communication.

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