Conceptualizing distributed leadership as a school reform: Revisiting job redesign theory

David Mayrowetz, Joseph Murphy, Karen Seashore Louis, Mark A. Smylie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

14 Scopus citations


In recent years, educators have been trying to create "distributed leadership" in their schools, often with the support of influential groups in the educational leadership policy community. Generally these reforms involve groups of teachers becoming formal leaders by undertaking tasks they would not traditionally have done, including some that would be perceived as administrative. In this chapter, we revive work redesign theory, specifically Hackman and Oldham's Job Characteristics Model (JCM), as a tool to examine these distributed leadership initiatives and to predict the success or failures of these efforts. Based on our early observations of six schools engaged in distributed leadership reform and a broad review of literature, including empirical tests of work redesign theory inside and outside schools, we retrofit the JCM by: (1) adding more transition mechanisms to explain how changes in work could lead to the widespread performance of leadership functions; (2) accounting for the fact that distributed leadership reform is a group work redesign; and most important, (3) enumerating relevant contextual variables that should impact the development, shape, and success of such reforms. We conclude with suggestions for future directions in the research of distributed leadership reforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDistributed Leadership According to the Evidence
EditorsK. Leithwood
Place of PublicationMahwah, NJ
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)0203868536, 9780203868539
StatePublished - 2008


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