Shanghai teachers’ perceptions on distributed leadership: Resource and agency

Meng Tian, Tuomo Virtanen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    45 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: Drawing on distributed leadership and motivation theories, this study investigates teachers’ perceptions of resource and agency distributions and identifies the key factors motivating leadership among teachers.

    Design/Approach/Methods: This quantitative study collected data from 327 teachers in nine schools in Shanghai. Chi-square tests of independence were conducted to examine the associations between leadership structures and power distance, while Spearman’s correlation tests were used to identify changes in leadership resource impact. A nonparametric Friedman’s test was applied to detect discrepancies between the agency of principals, team leaders, and teachers. Finally, Chi-square tests were conducted to discern the associations between teachers’ workload and motivation to lead.

    Findings: Most teachers identified the pyramid and spider’s web structures—which feature one power center and a high power distance—in their schools. The leadership resources and agency distributions corresponded to the school hierarchy: the higher position held by a teacher or a leader, the more resources they received, and the greater the agency they exercised. Results indicate that support from the principal is the most important factor in teachers’ participation in distributed leadership, while extra pay and leadership title are the least effective motivators.

    Originality/Value: This study has theoretical and practical value. First, it demonstrates the value of the resource–agency duality model for analyzing distributed leadership. Second, this study shows that promoting distributed leadership in Shanghai schools requires re-designing organizational resources and individual agency.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)808-829
    Number of pages22
    JournalECNU Review of Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date17 May 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Meng Tian was responsible for the research design, data collection, data analysis, and writing of the article. Tuomo Virtanen contributed to the statistical analysis and quantitative data interpretation. Both authors revised the manuscript before its publication. The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © The Author(s) 2021.


    • Distributed leadership
    • Shanghai schools
    • leadership as a resource
    • leadership as an agency
    • motivation to lead
    • teachers

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education


    Dive into the research topics of 'Shanghai teachers’ perceptions on distributed leadership: Resource and agency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this