Distributed leadership in a centralised context: the case of Malaysia

Tony Bush, Ashley Ng

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


The chapter provides information on the aspiration to improve Malaysian schools from the bottom third to the top third in the PISA league table. To achieve this, the MEB stresses that principals should move away from administrative leadership towards distributed leadership. Advocating distributed leadership in a highly centralized system as in the case of Malaysia is challenging despite the significance attached to it in the MEB. This is due to the reason that such a model like most other leadership models were developed in Western contexts and deemed not suitable for Asian countries. This chapter looks into empirical studies to look into whether and to what extent, and in what ways, distributed leadership is practiced in Malaysian schools. Despite the benefits of distributed leadership such as improved leadership density and subsequently contributes to student achievement, it is found that distributed leadership revolves around middle and senior leaders who hold formal positions and that the scope of distribution is circumscribed as important decisions are still made by authorities external to the school. What is found is a cautious attempt of practicing distributed leadership which leads to the notion of allocative distributed leadership instead of the ‘emergent’ distributed leadership as found in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSchool leadership in Malaysia
Subtitle of host publicationpolicy, research and practice
EditorsTony Bush
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003098584
ISBN (Print)9780367566074
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • distributed leadership
  • centralised context
  • Malaysia


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