New models of leadership are needed for the higher education sector to continue to graduate students with leading edge capabilities. While multiple theories of leadership exist, the higher education sector requires a less hierarchical approach that takes account of its specialised and professional context. Over the last decade the sector has explored new leadership approaches based on public and private sector models accompanied by an increase in managerial control, market competition, government scrutiny and organisational restructuring. These changes have increased the gap between academics and 'other' staff as academic autonomy has been reduced. This paper presents a distributive leadership approach that places emphasis on collective collaboration rather than individual power and control. It describes a self-enabling tool developed from the experience of four Australian universities that used a distributed leadership approach to build leadership capacity in learning and teaching. The authors identify that while the intent of the original project did not include building collaboration between academics and executive and professional staff, the outcome was recognition of the importance of both a multi-level and cross-functional approach to leadership.