26 SES 14 A, Leadership Distribution in Collaboration and Performance
Research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
Principals are found to have an impact on both working conditions and school results in terms of student outcomes (Böhlmark et al. 2012). According to the Swedish Education Act (2010:800) the overall goals for schools are the development of knowledge and basic democratic values in children and pupils. The principal is the one ultimately accountable for the achievement of these goals. The focus of this paper concerns alternative organising of the principal function and sheds light on the relation between working in a joint principalship and the democracy assignment of Swedish schools. The aim is to show how principals who work in fruitful joint principalships contribute democratic values to schooling. Data from three cases of joint principalship will be used.
The concept of joint principalship points to the specific position of leading a specific school and the concept is part of the shared and distributed leadership research area. In general, position-sharing in pairs or among managers demonstrates an alternative way of organising leadership. From research in today’s working life there is empirical evidence that managerial positions are successfully shared, and also that such cases cannot be dismissed as anecdotal (Döös et al. 2012). Distributed leadership concerns ”a variety of configurations which emerge from the exercise of influence that produces interdependent and conjoint action” (Thorpe et al. 2011:241).
Two sectors show a recurring interest and theory development in the distribution of leadership between managers: co-principalship and distributed leadership within the education sector (e.g. Court, 2003; Eckman, 2007; Gosling et al. 2009; Gronn & Hamilton, 2004), and shared leadership and partnerships within the health care sector (e.g. Fallis & Altimier, 2006; Rosengren & Bondas, 2010; Steinert et al. 2006). A literature review on distributed leadership claims that the majority of distributed leadership research has been conducted within the field of school leadership (Bolden, 2011). A co-principal leadership model, where two individuals serve in one leadership position, is considered a special case of distributed leadership: “This is a formal role where two or more incumbents comprise a concertive working unit in which they exercise joint managerial authority and accountability…” (Gronn & Hamilton, 2004:5).
Of special interest to this paper is joint principalship as a democracy-enhancing strategy. When two people share the principal position on equal terms, and develop their principalship through negotiation, this democratic and shared approach has a symbolic meaning for a democratic way of life (Thomson & Blackmore, 2006). Successful leadership has proved to be an interactive process involving many people in handling conflicting values, and using critique in an open dialogue to attain learning environments (Møller & Eggen, 2005).
Joint leadership is here regarded as a special case of co-principalship and is used to conceptualise when managers share as equals in a collective leadership approach. It is defined as “situations where two persons in both formal and practical terms share work tasks, responsibility and authority, as well as sharing the same managerial position” (Wilhelmson, 2006). It is understood as a complete collaboration where formal hierarchic equality is in place and work tasks are merged. Thus, joint principalship is regarded a subcategory of shared principalship, where the principals share authority and work tasks both in practice and as being formally appointed principals for one school.
The most important references Bligh, M. et al. (2006). The importance of self- and shared leadership in team based knowledge work. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 296-318. Bolden, R. (2011). Distributed leadership in organizations: A review of theory and research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13, 251-269. Brooking, K. et al. (2003). Getting below the surface of the principal recruitment 'crisis' in New Zealand primary schools. Australian Journal of Education, 47(2), 146-158. Bunnell, T. (2008). The Yew Chung model of dual culture co-principalship: A unique form of distributed leadership. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 11(2), 191-210. Böhlmark, A. et al. (2012). The headmaster ritual: the importance of management for school outcomes. Uppsala: IFAU. Court, M. (2004). Talking back to New public management versions of accountability in education: A co-principalship's practices of mutual responsibility. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 32(2), 171-194. Court, M. (2003). Towards democratic leadership. Co-principal initiatives. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 6(2), 161-183. Döös, M. et al. (2012). Isolated cases or widespread practice? The occurrence of sharing managers in Swedish working life. Economics and Business Letters, 1(3), 23-36. Eckman, E. (2007). The co-principalship: It's not lonely at the top. Journal of School Leadership, 17(3), 313-339. Eckman, E., & Kelber, S. T. (2010). Female traditional principals and co-principals: Experiences of role conflict and job satisfaction. Journal of Educ Change, 11, 205-219. Gosling, J. et al. (2009). Distributed leadership in higher education: What does it accomplish? Leadership, 5(3), 299-310. Gronn, P., & Hamilton, A. (2004). 'A bit more life in the leadership': Co-principalship as distributed leadership practice. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 3(1), 3-35. Møller, J., & Eggen, A. (2005). Team leadership in upper secondary education. School Leadership & Management: Formerly School Organisation, 25(4), 331-347. Møller, et al. (2007). Successful leadership based on democratic values. In C. Day & K. Leithwood (Eds.), Successful principal leadership in times of change. Dordrecht: Springer. Paynter, S. (2003). A study of the co-principalship in two charter schools. Seton Hall University. Thomson, P., & Blackmore, J. (2006). Beyond the power of one: redesigning the work of school principals. Journal of Educ Change, 7, 161-177. Thorpe, R. et al. (2011). Locating distributed leadership. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13, 239-250. West, E. (1978). The co-principalship: Administrative realism. The High School Journal, 61(5), 124-246. Wilhelmson, L. (2006). Transformative learning in joint leadership. Journal of Workplace Learning, 18(7-8), 495-507.
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