During mitosis and meiosis, the bipolar spindle facilitates chromosome segregation through microtubule sliding as well as microtubule growth and shrinkage. Kinesin-14, one of the motors involved, causes spindle collapse in the absence of kinesin-5 (Refs 2, 3), participates in spindle assembly and modulates spindle length. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these activities are not known. Here, we report that Drosophila melanogaster kinesin-14 (Ncd) alone causes sliding of anti-parallel microtubules but locks together (that is, statically crosslinks) those that are parallel. Using single molecule imaging we show that Ncd diffuses along microtubules in a tail-dependent manner and switches its orientation between sliding microtubules. Our results show that kinesin-14 causes sliding and expansion of an anti-parallel microtubule array by dynamic interactions through the motor domain on the one side and the tail domain on the other. This mechanism accounts for the roles of kinesin-14 in spindle organization.