In research, leadership has numerous definitions. It can be an influence process, the relationship between leader and follower, striving towards common goals, freeing up power or how leadership arises when someone takes the initiative.

To understand leadership, it is not enough to work from the assumption that activities function as rational instruments. The dynamics of leadership take on another meaning if we see organisations as complex systems, and the difficulties that exist in terms of choice, interaction and influence.

Head teachers' work has interested researchers for a long time. A municipal school organisation is a complex environment in which the leader's work is created and developed on different levels. Previous research focused on leadership (leader - led relationship) rather than management (the manager's working pattern and tasks).

What we see today is that the term “leadership” is used on various levels in the area of the school, which is reflected in the research at Linköping University. This interest has much in common with what is known as “distributed leadership”, where some researchers choose their own focus, to create a better division of leadership for increased efficiency, whereas others focus on increasing our understanding of the picture of interaction in an organisation. This can include gaps in what is divided (this is perhaps normal) or a distribution that looks entirely different to the desired situation, or a situation in which various leadership roles are out of sync. In the first-mentioned case, we have studies focusing on efficiency in the area of “successful schools”.

We find leadership in headmasters, teachers and even pupils. And we can take an interest in the leadership role taken on by supervisors and students in the field, in teacher education. This is reflected in various research projects.