Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. John Nash


This explanatory study examined how distributed leadership is practiced in international schools. This included looking at principals’ readiness to practice a distributed perspective of leadership, how they practice leadership, the opportunities for teacher leadership, and the relationship between distributed leadership practices and school innovation and improvement. Principals have increasingly adopted distributed leadership, sharing responsibilities with others, in response to COVID-19 (Azorin, Harris, & Jones, 2020). However, this response was not by design but to survive (Harris & Jones, 2020). The demands of the pandemic left leaders stretched more than ever, and adopting distributed leadership practices was essential (Harris & Jones, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in distributed leadership practices, with principals drawing on the expertise of various teachers and stakeholders across their schools to address the numerous challenges brought on by the crisis.

The study espoused a theoretical framework that synthesizes and extends upon the principles of distributed leadership as articulated by Spillane (2005) and Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond (2004), including Gordon’s (2005) instrument on distributed leadership readiness while also incorporating insights from O’Shea (2021) to explore the connection between distributed leadership practice, opportunities for teachers, and practices that foster innovation and school improvement.

This study used a sequential explanatory design using quantitative and qualitative data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017) to gain an in-depth understanding of leadership practice in international schools. A sequential explanatory design study has two distinct phases. The first is a quantitative phase, which, in the study, used the Distributed Leadership Readiness Scale (DLRS) Survey. The second is the qualitative phase, which, in the study, used interviews to hone and refine the quantitative findings (Fraenkel, Wallen, & Hyun, 2019; Ivankova, 2014; Ivankova, Creswell, & Stick, 2006).

Analysis of the data revealed that the international schools that participated in the study had positive readiness scores, indicating they are ready to practice or are actively practicing distributed leadership; however, their DLRS readiness scores were lower than prior studies in the United States. Findings revealed that international schools may need to readjust their leadership structures and development programs to create an internal pipeline of emerging leaders. The interview data revealed that numerous international schools had instituted various formal teacher and middle leadership positions alongside their executive senior leadership team. Also, the data revealed that international schools invested substantially in professional development in the study, although none of their development was specific to distributed leadership. Additionally, international schools invested in formal teacher and middle leadership positions; none of them had any training or were equipped with any professional learning to support them. Notably, the survey revealed only one response below zero (-0.205) to the survey item: Veteran teachers fill most leadership roles in the school, which suggests that despite schools investing in professional development, there is more that needs to be done to support developing leadership capacity in international schools in the Asia Pacific.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)