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Title: An investigation into the distribution of leadership in extended learning activities through the lens of cultural historical activity theory
Author: Chapman, Anna
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2017
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In order to address the criticism that Distributed Leadership (DL) literature is vague, confusing, has misleading definitions and is contradictory (Spillane and Coldren, 2011, p.26), this thesis puts forward a different approach in the form of a ‘Universal Leadership Culture’. This was developed from the findings of a study which aimed to investigate the distribution of leadership in Extended Learning Activities (ELAs), delivered in Centres placed in high profile sports clubs in England, through the particular Government initiative of ‘Playing for Success’ (PfS). Within an interpretative paradigm qualitative data was collected from two PfS Extended Learning Centres, established in Football Club stadiums. From considering the ideals of DL, as presented in the literature (Gronn, 2002, MacBeath 2004, Spillane, 2006, Leithwood et al., 2007), this study began with the assumption that the distribution of leadership had supported these Centres to deliver their desired outcomes. It investigated what it looked like and how and why it is facilitated. However, to create a more empirically robust theoretical framework, Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) was combined with the existing conceptual frameworks of the ‘Distributed Leadership Perspective’ (Spillane, 2006) to become the ‘Theoretical Lens for Leadership Distribution’. It provided an analytical ‘close-up’ of the elements of leadership activity from a historical and cultural viewpoint to understand what the implications of efficacy were and the ‘conditions where leadership distribution might thrive’ (Harris, 2008 p.183). Leadership distribution patterns, identified in the DL literature, were refined for this thesis into four categories of formal, pragmatic, organic and chaotic alignments of distribution. Through the activity systems of CHAT it could be seen that Centres used the distribution of leadership to support them in reaching their goals in different ways. Centre A relied on more organic situations, developing ‘hands on’ experience while Centre B created formal systems, such as training. However, staff in both Centres did not fully understand what approaches to leadership they were employing and displayed potentially disruptive or exploitative forms of distribution with chaotic alignments. For leadership distribution to be supportive to an organisation, there needs to be a holistic and self-aware approach that encourages continuous open and honest communication to ensure its effectiveness, as illustrated through a Universal Leadership Culture. It is hoped this might support future researchers, policy makers and practitioners looking at the distribution of leadership.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Prof.) Qualification Level: Doctoral