There is a vast and mainly enthusiastic literature on leadership. It has permeated virtually all sectors and the education sector has been particularly affected. The argument of this paper is that most of the literature and discussion about this issue is couched in terms of some fairly simple polarities: managers versus leaders, transactional versus transformational leaders, task-focused versus people-focused and so on. Moreover, recent analysis in education has begun to question the predominant focus on the head teacher as the leader but, so far, there has been little empirical work carried out on the meanings and implications of distributed leadership. The research reported here suggests that one crucial issue to be addressed is the dynamic of competition between leaders . Using a new conceptual framework, this article reports on a case study that reveals different interpretations of what leadership should entail and constitute at different levels of the organization. The paper shows that it is by no means enough to proselytize 'leadership' as if this will produce a set of approaches and behaviours that will unproblematically transform. On the contrary, different versions of what the transformed situation should look like can cause deep divisions.