Alternative Approaches for Studying Shared and Distributed Leadership
16 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2011
Date Written: September 2011
Scholars hold different perspectives about leadership which are not limited to a formally appointed leader. Of the abundance of terms used to describe this phenomenon, shared and distributed are the most prevalent. These terms are often used interchangeably, resulting in confusion in the way that shared and distributed leadership is conceptualized and investigated. This paper provides a historical development of this field, challenges existing conceptions and reveals inconsistencies and contradictions that are seldom acknowledged. Four distinct approaches to the study of shared and distributed leadership are identified in the literature, each embracing different ontological views and leadership epistemologies. Individually, the four approaches offer valuable – yet partial – understanding. Comparing and contrasting the assumptions and insights from the four approaches raises fundamental issues about how we think about leadership in terms of research, practice and development.
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