Distributed Leadership Theory

Some theories of leadership are based on the approach to an overall mission that an organization has. Other theories of leadership are based on team performance. Many of these theories rely on the skills of the leaders involved to implement a successful outcome. What makes the distributed theory of leadership different from all the rest is that it is defined by being context specific. Instead of focusing on the skills of a head leader, distributed leadership looks to teach new approaches to all of the individuals that are working on a team.

The Distributed Theory of Leadership Is Not Delegation

One of the common errors that crops up in discussing the distributed theory of leadership is that many view it as delegation and not leadership. The focus is not on delegation because it is a team approach that is utilized in this theory. It is not a leader-centric approach as in other theories. Instead of delegation, we are talking about is maximizing collaboration.

To have a team be able to maximize their collaborative powers, individuals on that team must have a certain level of mutual respect and trust for one another. Not only do they have to respect each other, but they also need to respect the contributions that each team member makes. This is why having an open culture within an organization is so effective. Everything that everyone does is transparent and reflective of overall collaborative power.

When there is transparency, there is the chance for innovation. To achieve innovation, the distributed theory of leadership allows for a certain level of reflection, constructive criticism, and engagement so that everyone can have a creative influence on ideas that are being implemented. Sometimes you can have too many leaders and not enough followers, but in this theory of leadership, power and control are virtually eliminated. Everyone has equal footing.

Teaching and Learning Become the Emphasis

Under the distributed theory of leadership, when one person achieves something, everyone achieves something. That is because teaching and learning are the emphasis points of this leadership theory. By using a flexible approach that allows for a maximum use of resources, a collaborative environment can be created where everyone learns from each other and has an opportunity to teach others as well. This builds up individual strengths, shores up individual weaknesses, and provide a unique challenge that eliminates the dangers of boredom in the workplace.

Everyone has talents and a unique skill. By distributing leadership to individuals based on their skills and talents, work is completed in a way that is most effective. The best people are always placed in a position where they can achieve the most good. It means that power is not placed centrally in most situations. By understanding the context of a project, this theory of leadership adapts a team so that the best person with the right skills in any given situation will assume the leadership mantle.

The distributed theory of leadership can be difficult to implement in traditional work settings, but the payoff is immediate. When people can be leaders in natural ways, the resulting outcome is always better overall.

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