Shared leadership has many names including partnership-as-leadership, distributed leadership, and community of leaders. Under the shared leadership model, the vision for a school is a place whose very mission is to ensure that students, parents, teachers, and principals all become school leaders in some ways and at some times(Barth, 1990). According to Russ S. Moxley, the idea of leadership as partnership suggests the basic concept of two or more people sharing power and joining forces to move toward accomplishment of a shared goal (Moxley, 2000). The main job of the administrator in distributed leadership is to enhance the skills and knowledge of the people in the organization, use those skills and knowledge to create a common culture of expectations, holding the organization together in a productive relationship with each other, and holding individuals accountable for their contributions to the collective result (Elmore, 2000). Principals can develop a community of leaders by openly articulating the goal, relinquishing decision-making authority to teachers, and involving teachers before decisions are made (Barth). When teachers are included in the decision-making process ahead of time, they are more likely to implement change. For example, when teachers are included in deciding what the behavior plan will be school-wide, they are more likely to ensure that it is used in their classroom effectively.
There are five requirements for the partnership model to work. The first requirement is balance of power (Moxley, 2002). For this model to be a partnership one person cannot have power and the others don't. They must be equal partners. Creating this balance of power is probably one of the hardest aspects in shared leadership. It is important for principals to empower all members of the group and it is equally important for teachers to work together to empower each other.
The second requirement is there must be a shared purpose or goal. Each member, with their own divergent opinions, must understand the ultimate goal of the group. Individuals use different tactics but share a sense of purpose (Moxley, 2002). This model is very powerful when everyone is working toward the same goal. So much can be accomplished when teachers are working together rather than working on their own agenda.
The third requirement is to share responsibility for the work of the group. Partnerships work whenever all the participants share responsibility and accountability for the work of the partnership (Moxley, 2002). Each person in the partnership must take an active role and be accountable for completing their individual contribution. Empowering teachers to work towards a common goal makes them aware of their responsibilities and the important role each one of them plays in reaching that goal. Teachers inherently are hard workers and will strive to do their part to reach the common goal.
The fourth requirement is respect for the person. Each person in the group brings with them skills and ideas that are valuable. The partnership must recognize and embrace the differences in the group. Respect for personhood is the sine qua non of partnerships (Moxley, 2002). With this level of respect, many things can be accomplished using shared leadership. One can build a strong, cohesive unit that can work well together to accomplish a goal.
The fifth and last requirement is partnering in the nitty-gritty, which means working together in complex, real-world situations. If these five requirements are met, something new begins to happen where a relationship becomes more of a partnership. There is more vitality and spirit is experienced, elegantly weaving individuals and their relationships (Moxley, 2002). With all of the complex problems in education today, working collaboratively is working smarter, not harder.
The best way to understand how a partnership is different from individual leadership is to look at how it works in three different settings: a one-to-one relationship, a team, and an organization. Partnership in one-to one relationships would involve the boss engaging in face-to-face dialogue to find out about an individual's gifts, skills, and energies to see where they can best be used to meet the organization's needs. Instead of the boss deciding alone, the two would agree on what works for both the boss and the employee. Instead, they share power and find a relationship-centered solution, a solution from outside of either person that comes from the interaction between them (Moxley, 2002). Partnership in teams is effective when leadership happens as a team of people working to accomplish a shared goal. Directive leadership by a single individual is less important than that the team knows how to function together as a close-knit unit. The partnership model also works in organizations where leadership is understood as collaboration. For example, Southwest Airlines, changed to a new practice of leadership by giving employees the opportunity to participate in the activity of leadership. People who work in an organization where top-down control is not used have an opportunity to voluntarily commit to their work. In turn the organization gets commitment rather than compliance.