The study aimed at investigating the concepts of distributed leadership (DL) in line with democratic values and social justice. To get the relationship, the study aimed at establishing the general perception of DL among the participants before associating the perceived meaning to democratic values and social justice. The research used a case study analysis in a leading UK secondary school that has a high perceived rating regarding DL about social justice and democratic values. The participants comprised of senior leaders, non-teaching staffs, teaching staffs and students. An art-based method was used to collect data from the participants (collage creation) followed by personal interviews with all the participants (Woods & Roberts, 2016). The study analysis varied representation of image pattern that ranged from hierarchical to halachic. The result indicated that most participants had a dominant view of pro-active agency and that the value of DL was represented in a complex manner suggesting an interaction of many multiple factors that affect DL. Many participants believed that the school has a well-established DL, but there was still hierarchical link that led and promoted decision making across all layers in the school. The study found that there were many delineating factors that comprised DL apart from democratic values and social justices and welcomed further research in these areas. The research also suggested that DL is flexible and requires supportive institutional structures to thrive and promote core values such as democracy and social justice. Further, the research found independent thinking is a critical aspect of DL.
Critical evaluation of the Research design
To understand how the DL interaction with social justice and democratic values worked, the study focused on a theoretical concept that asserted that our understanding of DL must deepen conceptually and practically. The fundamental of the research in the study aimed at promoting the deepening. Four concepts were central to the understanding of the DL and comprised of participative justice, distributive justice, cultural justice and developmental justice. Democratic theories imply that democracy is an inclusive participation that integrates connectedness in spiritual, ecology, and social dimension. Primarily, DL relationship with democratic values theoretically means that the authority is supposed to be equally shared irrespective of the available distinctions and hierarchical structures. The democratic values also entail considering and valuing the input of each individual. The research was also supported by the analytical views from different literature that considered DL as a complex, interactive process. Literature pointed out that authority was not a preserve of the authority, but rather shared among individuals represented. These perspectives formed the theoretical foundations that were used in the study and helped to redefine the meaning of DL as an interactive form of leadership that moved across all structures within an organization. DL was also construed to mean the values that are shared within the organization. Finally, the theoretical perspective helped to define DL as a complex leadership style that involved some hierarchy that helped to spearhead the effectiveness of leadership within an organization.
Leadership theories also offer insights on effective leadership and assert that an organization can use different types of leadership such as democratic and aristocratic type of leadership. It is impossible for an organization such as a secondary school to use democratic leadership only. This is because there is a difference in understanding and intellectual capital among the teaching staff, the students, and the senior management. The non-teaching staff and the students might not come up and enforce effective decisions. Senior management staffs are important inclusion because they have the intellectual capital and experience to foster effective decisions and guide through the implementation process. A chain of command is needed in a school setting to establish rules and regulation as well as lay out the democratic structure that ensures that the rules are enforced democratically. The study DL definition and scope provided a comprehensive overview of distributional leadership. However, the scope of the DL provided in the study did not consider the learning integration which was crucial to guiding the DL since the key purpose of secondary education is to offer a holistic education through diversified learning. The study was guided by the fact that understanding the values of the DL did not translate to promoting DL ethos. The research aimed at investigating DL in a school context about perception of ways through which DL promote social justice and democratic practices. The limitation of DL is broad and can be categorized in different parameters, the research only aimed at studying the general view of the perception of DL about social justice and democratic. Therefore, the study was highly limited to only two parameters and therefore only offered a theoretical perception of DL.
The data collection methods aimed at getting the result from senior staff, non-teaching staff, teaching staff and students. The participants were categorized into major groups through the help of the interviewer. At times, the team leader, who was usually the researcher assumed leadership and guided the participants through the various stages of the research. The team leader also facilitated sharing of data among the participants. This method had several shortcomings in that; the participants were put into groups, which meant that there was a higher possibility of duplicating the results. The leader of the groups sometimes helped the members through some stages, therefore, could easily provide the participant with the information that guided the result and jeopardized any chance of coming up with fair data. The participants were also allowed to use material that was provided by the researchers to construct collage. Some of the materials that were provided could easily guide the participants on where to place when constructing the collage. There were no significant criteria that limited the use of judgmental materials in the study. Despite the fact that the collage data was followed by personal explanation and interview based on structured questions, only very limited questions were used in the research. The limited questions only focused on examining the extent participants recognized DL in the school, how they defined social justice in the school context, the extent the participants felt the impact of DL in the school and external factors that influenced DL. Such a narrow scope of questions could not provide a comprehensive overview of the extent of DL in the school. Distributional leadership is in itself a delineation of many aspects. Therefore, to understand and compare the dynamics of perception of the DL across the various participants groups, the research needed to include more aspects of DL.
The study employed the use of qualitative design methods. Specifically, the study encompassed the use of case study to collect and analyze the data. A qualitative design method of research is effective in studying social matters, and because the research focused on analyzing democratic and social justice principle, the method offered a good opportunity to get results. However, the study deviated from the normally structured interview and formalized qualitative designs and used art-design. Participants were required to express their perception using images to enhance their expression and feelings towards the type of DL offered in the school. The researchers believed that the images, followed by individual interview were an effective tool to capture elements of data that could not be realized in a normal structured interview. The methods aimed at capturing arrays of varied experiences. The artistic design research method used focused on establishing an original and new ways of expressing thoughts. The researchers believed that they needed to explore different stories from participants to get a wider overview of the perceived leadership in the school. However, the process of the art-design was simulated and controlled by an interviewer. Whereas the method of research focused on a unique way of capturing perception of the participants, it relied on a general scope of data which needed to be simplified before any significant meaning can be deduced. The study method also meant that every participant required a significant amount of time to explore the art designs and express their perception about the DL. Therefore, the researchers only concentrated on a small sample of the population to come up with the data. Additionally, the method of the research used majorly focused on the perception of the participants regarding democratic values and social justice. This presented a narrow scope that cannot account a true reflection of the distributional leadership dimension. The limited scope and the small sample size used in the study were primary indicators that questioned the reliability of the design method used.
Ethical aspect is a vital consideration in determining the quality of research. The research did not highlight the ethical steps that were used to conduct the research. Participation should be free, and that personal information should be withheld. However, because the research involved grouping of participants into categories, it was hard to conceal their identities. This could have led to wrong data collection because some participants especially non-teaching and students might have provided wrong information out of fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the senior in the future.
Study findings and analysis
The study used images and the information from the interviews to analyze the meaning. The collages from the participants provided additional information since they gave the researchers an opportunity to understand the essence of individual experiences. The images also enhanced the capacity of the researchers to understand the participants in a detailed way. However, it is hard to interpret images and deduce meaning. The images from different participants could have conveyed a different meaning but because the researchers had a preconceived expectation of results end up forcing the meaning. The images revealed that some participants used circular structure while other used a vertical structure. A circular structure implied that participants had a general perception that inclined towards holarchy leadership while vertical structure revealed that some participant indicated that the type of leadership displayed was hierarchical (Woods & Roberts, 2016). Some participants displayed both structures which indicated that the school used a mixed formed of leadership that ranged from hierarchical to holarchy.
Other participants noted that the school had a distributional leadership because it provided them with a forum to express their views but noted that their views had little impact on enforcing the major decisions. Similarly, other participants expressed concerns that their views to before their views were heard, they had to follow a specific chain of command and expressed feeling that views of specific categories of people were deemed superior. Regarding social justice and democratic values in relation with DL, participants had mixed reaction. The results indicated that senior staffs had a high satisfaction with the social justice and democratic values than others and that the values declined as you move down the ranks. The study also found that presence of hierarchical structures did not imply...
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