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Case Studies in Distributed Leadership


We, in partnership with Open Mind Consulting and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, researched seven organizations to learn about how they share, collaborate on, and distribute leadership. Looking through the lens of decision making, we discovered that even among this small sample, the ways of distributing power, authority, and responsibility are myriad. Whether rotating leadership positions, leadership teams, or a practice of distributing leadership that transcends the entire organization, each organization approached sharing leadership from different angles.

To understand this variation, we’ve developed a conceptual framework for thinking about distributed leadership on a continuum and situated the organizations we studied at different stages in launching, sustaining and adapting distributed leadership practices. Our five case studies begin to unpack the promise and paths forward for distributed leadership, including the role of positional authority in distributed leadership practices, their intersection with taking on and absorbing risk, and tools for enacting distributed leadership.