I recently presented a webinar on Claiming and evidencing leadership in learning and teaching. What does leadership of learning and teaching look like with or without positional authority? What are the challenges of recognising and evidencing your leadership if you don’t (yet) have a formal leadership role?

Many people struggle to identify themselves as leaders of learning and teaching (as we discussed in a recent Teche post We can all be leaders of learning and teaching). An advantage of claiming leadership, whether you have positional authority or not, is that it allows you to reflect on your values, consider your areas of influence and keep learning. Here are some ideas as a starting point:

I shared the following model for leading and managing learning and teaching based on work with colleagues (Marshall et. al. 2011):

I wondered whether such a model of leadership privileges positional authority. An alternative approach is distributed leadership:

Distributed leadership is … a flexible, multi-level and iterative reflective process in which individuals who trust and respect each other’s expertise collaborate to take responsibility for leading action for change while growing the capacity of the group.

(Harvey & Jones, 2022, p. 74).

The 6E tenets of distributed leadership:

1. Engage formal and informal leaders, academic and professional colleagues, students and stakeholders/ partners
2. Enable a culture of respect, trust and collaborative relationships​
3. Enact through processes, support and systems that develop leadership capabilities​
4. Encourage shared decision-making, recognition of contributions, professional and social learning and networking​
5. Evaluate evidence and examples of leadership of learning and teaching​
6. Support emergent leaders and leadership​

(Adapted from Jones & Harvey, 2017 & 2022)

I encouraged participants to share examples of how they enact leadership in their roles. Simple actions like asking questions in relevant contexts were hailed as potent ways of leading. Strategies for evidencing practice included reflective practice, blogging and journaling, maintaining a “nice emails” folder, and documenting significant career milestones.

Some prompts based on the discussion:

  • Identify key values associated with leadership in your context. For example, trust, respect, recognition, collaboration, and reflective practice are associated with a distributed leadership approach.
  • Try adopting a “work cloak” to facilitate a mental transition into a leadership role. This Teche post has some strategies for putting on “your teaching cloak”.
  • Reflect on the importance of balance in leadership and personal life, particularly taking leave to maintain vitality and perspective.
  • Align your work with personal values to avoid inner conflicts that may arise in leadership positions.
  • Explore the 6E tenants of distributed leadership framework (above) and how it can be applied to assess and improve your reflective leadership practice.
  • Reflect on your recent leadership activities through Brookfield’s four lenses: personal experience, students as colleagues, perception, and theoretical lens.


Brookfield, S. D. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Jones, S. & Harvey, M. (2017). A distributed leadership change process model for higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29 (2), 126-139.

Marshall, S. J., Janice Orrell , Alison Cameron, Agnes Bosanquet & Sue Thomas (2011) Leading and managing learning and teaching in higher education, Higher Education Research & Development, 30:2, 87-103. 

Banner image: Illustration by Jacek Kita on Shutterstock

Posted by Agnes Bosanquet

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