Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to ascertain how two urban principals, in high schools that feature comprehensive college-and-career readiness practices, utilize distributed leadership to facilitate their implementation. Design/methodology/approach: This study employed qualitative methods. Drawing upon semi-structured interview data, observational data gathered as part of site visits, and internal and electronic documents, case descriptions were developed of each school, focusing on principals' activities in support of career pathways. Findings: The principals contributed significantly to their schools' college-and-career readiness reforms and programming. Although their approaches were distinct, six common themes were identified: facilitating processes to form a shared vision, developing relational trust, a focus on learning, successful partnerships, conducive structures, and developing leadership skills and capacity. The principals described utilizing distributed leadership approaches--including practices, structures, and tools--to support these reforms. Originality/value: This study represents the initial phase of a multi-year research project investigating the implementation of college-and-career pathways in urban communities. Prior research has overlooked the important role of principals in leading and facilitating these reforms, and this study contributes to the literature because it focuses on principals' contributions in supporting college-and-career readiness. Additionally, in both cases, substantive, regular leadership contributions were made by business representatives external to the organization.