The Principle of Singularity

A Retrospective Study of How and Why the Legislation Process behind Sweden’s Education Act came to Prohibit Joint Leadership for Principals


  • Marianne Döös Stockholm University
  • Lena Wilhelmson
  • Jenny Madestam
  • Åsa Örnberg



education act, principal, school unit, shared leadership


This paper provides insight into the legislative process behind the current Education Act of Sweden. The aim is to shed light on how and why it came to prohibit joint leadership for principals. Joint leadership is a sub-form of shared leadership between managers characterised by complete formal authority, hierarchic equality and merged work tasks. The sharing of a principal’s position is, in previous research, identified as potentially favourable for principals and schools as it decreases principals’ often heavy workload. Five retrospective interviews were done with people involved in the legislative process. The analysis points out both distrust in the governing line and uninformed notions of leadership among legislators as explanations behind the prohibition. In the legislative work, joint leadership was at most a marginal issue. Thus the legal prohibition was an unintended side-effect, yet completely in line with traditional and uninformed notions of leadership. The principle of singularity ruled and joint leadership was extinguished for principals without considering whether this favoured or harmed the overarching aims of the Education Act: increased peda-gogical responsibility and leadership with a focus on the students’ learning, results and democratic upbring-ing.


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How to Cite

Döös, M., Wilhelmson, L., Madestam, J., & Örnberg, Åsa. (2018). The Principle of Singularity: A Retrospective Study of How and Why the Legislation Process behind Sweden’s Education Act came to Prohibit Joint Leadership for Principals. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 2(2-3), 39–55.