Leadership for Community Engagement: A Distributive Leadership Perspective

Jia G. Liang, Lorilee R. Sandmann


This article presents distributed leadership as a framework for analysis, showing how the phenomenon complements formal higher education structures by mobilizing leadership from various sources, formal and informal. This perspective more accurately portrays the reality of leading engaged institutions. Using the application data from 224 Carnegie-classified community-engaged institutions from the 2008 and 2010 cycles, this study investigated leaders responsible for institutional community engagement; their ways of leading and institutionalizing engagement; and the structural, contextual, and developmental elements in the distribution of leadership for engagement in classified engaged institutions. The findings suggest that the engaged institution as a holistic system locates, aligns, and coordinates tasks, processes, and resources along lines of expertise, and not necessarily in alignment with institutional lines of command. The collectivism involved in community engagement provides space for coexistence of planned and spontaneous performance as well as the alignment of leadership functions across various sources of leadership.

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