Advantages And Disadvantages Of Distributed Leadership

The majority of the leadership style you come across concern themselves with it, whereas distributed leadership style does not. 

When the other leadership style addresses the attributes and characteristics of an individual leader, distributed leadership focuses on group leadership. 

The concept is certainly more recent and provides arguments for a more systematic approach toward leadership and management

It is dissociated from the organizational roles designated to specific leaders; rather, it dials into group quality and mutually comes out with a decision. 

You might wonder whether this leadership style suits your organization or your personality. 

Or maybe you are curious to expand your understanding of leadership style; the best foot forward, in either case, is to go through its advantages and disadvantages. 

It will give you the full scope of the style and the characteristics to learn. 

distributed leadership Stages

Breaking Down The Components Of Distributed Leadership Style

Traditional Delegation 

  • Traditional Delegation is an initial step to the distributed leadership style. It is in fact something that has been popularly seen in the service industry. 
  • It is also the most commonly existing form of distributed leadership style that one can see foundationally inhabiting. 
  • It starts from delegating over handing over some power to others; it can be on the basis of particular kinds of tasks, specified skills, or a complete department. 
  • The very foundation of traditional delegation is based on the fact that you don’t have to or need to do everything on your own. 
  • In traditional delegation, a person or organization appoints deputies and relies on them. 
  • They also respect the autonomy of the delegate. However, it is necessary to administer and manage them in order to meet the desired vision. 
  • It is important that these delegated parties regularly report to their co-authorities or primary authority. 
Different stages of Distributed Leadership Style 

Progressive Delegation

  • Progressive Delegation is way improved from the traditional delegation as it tends to affect your structure. 
  • Bringing progressive delegation into an organization extends it and adds more layers and streamlining to the structure. 
  • It also amends any kind of efficiency holes in your business operations. 
  • Such delegation asks for team building and forming committees to uphold certain tasks and meet required goals.
  • It is an advanced form of traditional delegation and a more progressive step towards distributed leadership and management. 
  • This system allows or requires the administration to create multiple unique roles with dedicated and specified tasks.
  • One can be more focused on the people’s roles and responsibilities to ensure efficient streamlining of the project.
  • Organizations also get to focus the skill learnings, improvements, and modifications on the specific basis of a particular role or person.
  • It allows companies or individuals to develop proper and structured planning for their businesses.
  • It becomes easier to monitor the progress, examine, test, and audit the results, further pinpoint the issues and work particularly on them. 
Stages of Distributed Leadership Style

Guided Distribution 

  • Now, this is more aligned with an organization’s leadership and management distribution model.
  • An organization can rely on more than just its structure in the Guided Distribution model.
  • It primarily focuses on developing better relationships in a mutually-engineered workplace environment.
  • Certainly, the best step is to bring together an organization’s skills and talents.
  • This is the most advanced form of delegation and the basic but effective form of distribution management and leadership.
  • It focuses primarily on investing in the organization’s people, not seeing them just as human resources or talents.
  • Such leadership style or model also encourages to focus more on the quality of professional conversations and the core purposes of the business.
  • It is also about moving in the right direction, towards building relationships, steering the conversation toward positive outcomes, and being attentive. 
Progressive Delegation of Distributed leadership style

Emergent Distribution

  • Emergent Distribution is a way of working towards implementing or asserting the most advanced distribution leadership style and management in the workplace.
  • Such a leadership style focuses on clarifying the purposes, values, and vision and keeping it that way.
  • It further doubles down on developing positive and powerful relationships in the workspace.
  • It also encourages the employees to innovate and bring new and fresh ideas to the table.
  • Emergent Distribution strongly focuses on the organization’s collaborative effort toward a common goal.
  • It also instills the idea of letting go, allowing employees to move beyond heightened expectations and conflicts.
  • It also demonstrates putting trust in each other and being more proactive and more immersive in the given opportunities. 
Distributed Leadership Style of Emergent Distribution

Assertive Distribution

  • Assertive Distribution grows from the progressive delegation adding up all the traits from earlier layers and steps in this advanced one.
  • Assertive Distribution leadership and management is a combination of progressive delegation, guided distribution, emergent distribution, and more.
  • It catalyzes the passionate approach towards shared goals, vision, purposes, and values.
  •  It encourages different people in the organization to debate important proposals and come up with a common decision.
  • Assertive Distribution encourages proactive and honest communication and resistance early in the process if one has to.
  • It also prepares everyone to accept and nurture criticism, along with having a culture of respectful dialogue.
  • It also promotes keeping a sense of humor, so the offense and awkwardness can be tackled smartly and smoothly.
  • Assertive distribution establishes the streamlining of shared leadership in the very structure and discipline of organizations’ working culture. 
Assertive Distribution of Distributed Leadership Style

Key Concept Of Distributed Leadership 

The difference between the usual style of leadership and the distributed leadership in its very inception. 

Distributed leadership focuses on and strives to achieve a much more systematic approach to leadership. 

It is a relatively new concept compared to traditional leadership concepts, generally concerned with leaders themselves only. 

Leadership, traditionally, is more associated with the attributes and behavior of the individual leader. 

In other words, it is more centric, whereas the distributed leadership model ‘distributed’ the authority and accountability of leadership roles. 

It is much more branched and has more potential to develop layers of leadership interdependent to each other.

Distributed Leadership Advantages

Advantages of Distributed Leadership Style 

Offers More Options To The Company 

When a company follows the distributed leadership style, it provides them with more options to lead in different circumstances. 

If the leader is the only person in charge of the place and the sole person to make decisions, what happens if that leader is not around?

Distributed leadership style allows corporations to rely on multiple administration heads to control and manage situations. 

More people have the authority to run things at the place, so there are more chances that there is someone there to manage things. 

It surely saves time, energy, and money for the company and eliminates any possibility of conflict in the workspace. 

Retains Elements Of Traditional Chain-Of-Command

There are plenty of corporations that are still focussing on the leadership style featuring control and command. 

Such leadership aims to acknowledge every particular person on the team to know who exactly are their direct superior in the hierarchy. 

This maintains the chain of command in the workplace, giving everyone a particular defined role within the company. 

Leaders get more freedom to make decisions on behalf of the company. 

Distributes Larger Vision With Everyone

One person making decisions for everyone makes the person entirely responsible for everything he or she does.  

Since the consequences and vision are limited to one leader, it is barely translated or projected to everyone in the organization. 

So, people in the company end up knowing nothing about the consequences or the full scope of the decisions made or work done. 

It also becomes hard for people to put their everything as they aren’t much convinced of the potential of the opportunity. 

Also, it makes the team members apart from the leadership or administration of the company.  

Distributed leadership, on the other hand, shares the vision with everyone, and the communication between the administration becomes multi-level and more intricate. 

The vision or the bigger picture of anything that one employee is doing is shown to them in order to motivate them. 

It also helps companies to take advantage of different kinds or levels of expertise of the leaders and employees in the organization. 

Provides Bigger Opportunities 

If a business is under a distributed leadership style, they are more likely to aim for upward movement opportunities within the corporate structure only. 

And if that is something that usually doesn’t facilitate in a workspace organically, companies are going to lose those talents. 

Very rarely happens when a few of them actually work for a long time and are happy with their position in the workspace. 

They continue to earn the same pay along with the same benefits. This kind of leadership offers those talents to be accommodated. 

People are more likely to take the responsibilities as they become more experienced over time, and hence they also prefer to helm leadership in the workspace as well. 

Distributed leadership style helps all these kinds of upward movement opportunities; bigger opportunities meet the ambitious talents in a workspace. 

Brings Substantial Change 

It is no brainer how a distributed leadership style or model develops the potential for substantive changes in the company. 

Usually, where one person is in charge and making all the decisions, the company has to basically rely on that one person, his or her creativity, leadership, and credibility. 

If the company loses that particular person, it is also losing the organization’s drive. 

There is too much dependency on one person to fill the leadership shoes. 

On the flip side, the case of distributed leadership, it allows the commitment and responsibility to be distributed to different workers. 

This also encourages each and every person to do something greater than they think they could ever do. 

With more different and creative minds coming into the leadership position, bringing more diversity to the administration brings a substantial change in the office. 

Gives Everyone Equal Chance To Lead 

As the name suggests, distributed leadership certainly makes a lot of room for more people to take up the chair. 

With the distributed leadership style adopted in an organization, anyone can become the leader, and everyone gets to. 

Surely, the position they gain is a formal supervisory role within the company’s primary authority. 

But they still get to make decisions, lead the team, and command. Everyone can bring something of their own to the company’s progress. 

Some extended leadership positions are also restricted to a certain project or department where they can regulate everyone as per them. 

With everyone getting a chance to lead, it makes employees care more about the company and develops their leadership skills

Not to mention the kind of skills and qualities they develop over time every time taking up responsibilities, making them a better worker. 

Ensures Honesty In Workspace 

With Distributed leadership style, it encourages the workplace environment to become a place of open and honesty. 

It encourages employees to come up with things they want to communicate and share with each other honestly. 

Honesty in an organization makes many things easier for their administrators and predicts and prevents conflicts. 

The company, in the case of this leadership, relies on the present leader, their expertise, and how they handle things. 

Promotes Mutual Learning 

When a company can literally find leaders throughout their organizations, every person gets the chance to expand their skill sets. 

Leadership skills, management, and even the specific skills that help them in the project. 

Everyone tends to learn from each other, work together and gain wisdom from each other’s experiences, as there is no individual superior to everyone. 

People look to create stronger bonds in the organization so everyone can work freely and connect to the place. 

For this, they need a common ground where they can share their knowledge and grow together. 

Disadvantages Of Distributed Leadership

Disadvantages of Distributed Leadership Style 

Can Make it Harder To Hold Someone Accountable

Leadership to one person also comes with accountability the leader has to hold. 

When there is one leader in charge of everything, it is clear who to hold accountable for things when something goes wrong. 

But when there are multiple leaders and distributed leadership amongst different levels, who will hold them accountable for their actions? 

It is not that accountability is not there, but since it is distributed and not in its entirety, it doesn’t come up as very obvious to point out. 

So this does stir up things in an organization, so it becomes very important to specify every particular detail with a distributed leadership style initiated in the workspace. 

It must specify which leader is going to helm what particular set of duties or responsibilities for particular kinds of outcomes. 

Reduces The Pace Of Decision-Making

When there is one person in charge, responsible for every particular decision made in order to fulfill the task or carry on the project, then decisions will be taken faster. 

The pace of the implementation of any decision-making also will be quite high.  

With distributed leadership style, there are many voices when it comes to zero down to a decision. 

Since every voice needed to be heard as it should be, the decision-making process certainly was going to take a toll on its procedural time. 

And the overall time to get it implemented is also generally reduced as compared to a leadership style with one leader. 

This becomes more problematic during crisis management when decisions need to be taken faster to cover the damage. 

Foster Higher Expectations 

When the distributed leadership style is implemented in an organization, the leaders are expected to be heard. 

Now, this is not necessarily bad, but it tends to raise more conflicts and reduce the speed of decision-making and even the efficiency of the project. 

In this model, the people started to think that their voices are critical for the company, and it should matter whenever and whatever decisions need to be made. 

Since there are too many contributing voices lagging the speed of the decision-making in the organization, a lot of times, many people are excluded. 

Or at least, it seems like they have been excluded from the decision-making, making them feel left out. 

And this is something that happens very often, leads to conflict or internal clashes, and even ends up looking for alternate opportunities. 

So with a distributed leadership model that develops the high expectation of importance for people, it becomes difficult to meet. 

Promotes Uncertainty 

Conflict is bound to happen when you bring multiple people into the shared leadership with diverse opinions, different skill sets, experiences, and even agendas. 

Different opinions do help and create strength over time but often cripple critical decision-making at the present moment. 

So it becomes really tricky to bring everyone on the same page, and develop confidence in each other. 

Not to mention, in the distributed leadership style, even the best thing is a consensus decision, even if that is not sure to be the right course of action. 

It is only possible to go right with it when a person in the organization is authorized to override the consensus decision.  

Then, again if an organization does have one person as an authority over them, it kills the whole point of distributed leadership style. 

Needs To Have Leaders With Specified Experience 

When leaders are placed under this distributed leadership style structure, they should be well briefed on their specified duties. 

It is important for those leaders to be experts in their niches or industries so they bring the best results for the company. 

It also gives them more perspective and depth to understand better and lead other departments. 

But when the leaders are misplaced at the position where he or she doesn’t have the necessary experience to bring the desired results, the project crashes down. 

And so it fails the leadership style or the strategy used by the organization. This is certainly one of the disadvantages of a distributed leadership style.

It is important for the leader in the position of the act to have the capability to make decisions individually as well. 

May Foster Conflicts & Arguments 

As this is established earlier, because of the diverse opinions and personalities and even sometimes agendas in this leadership style invite conflicts. 

The goal of the distributed leadership style is to achieve common ground for shared leadership from multiple talents backed by different unique experiences, skills, and qualities to meet a certain vision. 

This does sound a very clear and precise thing to do, but practically, with so many people involved, it fosters arguments. 

The arguments turn into conflicts, drawing the line between people amongst them only. 

This only hampers the spirit of distributed leadership and makes it harder to implement such a leadership style in the organization. 

Key Takeaways

  • Distributed leadership involves sharing leadership responsibilities and decision-making across a team or organization rather than being solely held by one individual.
  • Advantages of distributed leadership include increased collaboration, improved decision-making, a more inclusive approach to leadership, and increased staff engagement and empowerment.
  • Disadvantages of distributed leadership can include confusion and conflicts, a lack of accountability and direction, slower decision-making processes, difficulty in maintaining consistency, and the risk of neglecting long-term goals and strategies.
  • Distributed leadership can be particularly effective in complex and dynamic environments where decision-making needs to be fast and adaptable.
  • Organizations should clearly define roles and responsibilities to implement distributed leadership effectively, establish effective communication channels, provide training and support for staff members taking on leadership roles, set clear goals and objectives, and create a culture of trust and collaboration.
  • While distributed leadership can work in many organizations, it may not be suitable for all organizations. Some organizations may have a strong hierarchical structure or a culture that does not support a more collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership.


What are the advantages of distributed leadership?

Some advantages of distributed leadership include increased collaboration and creativity, improved decision-making and problem-solving, a more inclusive and diverse approach to leadership, increased staff engagement and empowerment, and better use of the organization’s collective knowledge and expertise.

What are the disadvantages of distributed leadership?

Some disadvantages of distributed leadership include confusion and conflicts due to unclear roles and responsibilities, a lack of accountability and direction, slower decision-making processes, difficulty maintaining consistency across the organization, and the risk of neglecting long-term goals and strategies.

What types of organizations benefit most from distributed leadership?

Organizations that have complex and dynamic environments, where decision-making needs to be fast and adaptable, tend to benefit most from distributed leadership.

This includes organizations in the tech industry, healthcare, education, and non-profit sectors.

How can organizations implement distributed leadership effectively?

To implement distributed leadership effectively, organizations should clearly define roles and responsibilities, establish effective communication channels, provide training and support for staff members taking on leadership roles, set clear goals and objectives, and create a culture of trust and collaboration.

Can distributed leadership work in all organizations?

While distributed leadership can work in many organizations, it may not be suitable for all organizations. Some organizations may have a strong hierarchical structure, or staff members may not have the necessary skills or experience to take on leadership responsibilities. Additionally, some organizational cultures may not support a more collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership.

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