Distributed Leadership for Social Justice Action

Distributed Leadership for
Social Justice Action
S. Colby Peters, LGSW
Mathew Uretsky, MSW, MPH
Leah Bartley, MSW
Anusha Chatterjee, MA
Where is the social justice in social work?
• Advocacy ranked low on social workers’ list of priorities
• Lack of participation in public policy formation
• Engagement in social justice at individual level, but not
organizational or societal level
Why aren’t social workers engaging in social
justice actions?
Psychological and individual approach to social work
Managerialism and professionalism
Organizational culture
Social work education does not translate the pursuit of social
justice into specific advocacy techniques
The qualities and skills needed to promote social justice are
encompassed in social work leadership Client Outcomes
Social Work Leadership
 Advocates for clients and
 Thinks critically
• Increased opportunities to
in organizational
that directly
Social Worker
him orSocial
her toWorker
• Committed
and social justice
• Politically savvy
Organizational Outcomes
• Visionary
Culture ofdiversity
leadership, not
•• Manages
• Adherence
to mission and
Social Work Profession
• Increased
promotion of
social work values
Global Outcomes
Global Outcomes
• Social justice
A Theory of Social Justice Promotion
Increases in distributive leadership in the workplace predict increases
in subjective norms associated with the promotion of social justice.
Subjective Norms
Perceived Behavioral
Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (1991)
Distributed leadership may contribute to
an increase in advocacy for social justice
• Distributed leadership: Emergent leadership based on knowledge, time,
and context, consisting of a concerted action by a group of individuals
for the purpose of achieving a common goal.
Research Question
Do increased levels of distributed leadership
in the workplace predict increases in
social justice actions?
Method and Results
Organizational Inputs and Social Workers’ Management of
Secondary Trauma in the Workplace
May – August 2013
Sampling Frame
• 483 licensed social
workers in PA and
MD from state
licensure lists
• 174 surveys
• 166 valid surveys
• 34.3% response rate
• Missing data on SJS
and DL scales
• Not currently working
as social workers
Sample Size
• 130 final sample
• Subjective Norms Subscale, Social Justice Scale (Torres-Harding, Siers, & Olson,
• 4 items
• Alpha = .88
• Sample question: On a scale of 1 to 7, please indicate to what extent people around you are
engaged in activities that address social injustices in your workplace.
• Distributed Leadership Subscale, Leadership Scale, Comprehensive Organizational
Health Assessment (Fritzler & Leake, 2012)
• 3 items
• Alpha = .97
• Sample question: On a scale of 1 to 6, the leadership of our organization views leadership as
shared by staff and administrators.
Hierarchical Regression Analysis*
Independent Variables
Step 1 - Demographics
• Ethnicity: Caucasian non-Hispanic, Other
• Gender: Male, Female
• Marital Status: Partnered/Married, Other
Step 2 – Distributed Leadership
• Distributed leadership subscale
*All assumptions for OLS regression were met.
Dependent Variable
Subjective norms related to
social justice promotion
• Subjective norms subscale
Increases in distributive leadership in the workplace predict increases
in subjective norms associated with the promotion of social justice.
Subjective Norms
+ 1 point
R2 = .123
Colleagues display positive
attitude toward social justice
and engage in social justice
+ 1.4 points
Implications, Limitations, and Future Research
• Distributed leadership  social worker leadership behaviors  leadership
culture  social justice promotion
• Distributed leadership may counterbalance managerialism
• Basing organizational structure and function on principles of social justice
may enable social workers to engage in more advocacy
• Social workers who feel comfortable addressing structural and functional
issues in their organization may translate into addressing structural
inequalities in societal institutions
• Subscales have not been used alone in previous studies
• Sample not diverse
• Potential private practice respondents
• Didn’t define “social justice”
Future Research
• More extensive assessment of distributed leadership practices over
time and across organizations
• More detailed assessment of social justice promotion in an
• Specific actions taken by social workers in the promotion of social
justice inside and outside of the organization
How do we promote social justice?
Social workers must:
• Apply principles of social justice to their organizations
• Retain a critical stance to existing organizational and societal
structures that promote inequality
• Advocate for change on multiple levels
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Slide 1 – Jane Addams with immigrant children, retrieved 6.2.2014 from
Slide 3 – Whitney M. Young, Jr., retrieved on 6.2.2014 from
Slide 4 – Harry Hopkins, WPA Administrator, visits Arkansas families
displaced by flooding, retrieved on 6.2.2014 from
Slide 6 – Jeannette Rankin, retrieved on 6.2.2014 from
Slide 17 – Dorothy Height, members of Sigma Theta Delta sorority, and
Mamie Eisenhower, retrieved on 6.2.2014 from
S. Colby Peters, LGSW
[email protected]

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