Transformational school leadership: a systematic review of research in a centralized education system

Mustafa Toprak, Mehmet Karakus, Junjun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This study intends to systematically review empirical evidence on transformational school leadership (TSL) in a centralized educational context.

The study includes a topographical mapping and a narrative review of thirty-seven research articles published in Turkey between 2000 and 2021. The review strategy included systematically searching the Turkish Academic Network and Information Center (ULAKBIM) and Scopus. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) flow diagram guided the review and reporting process.

Three key themes emerged: (1) perceptions, attitudes and behaviors; (2) psychological resources, learning and innovation and (3) school climate and culture. The results indicated that the research evidence on TSL in the review did not correspond well with the evidence on TSL in non-Western contexts. The authors also discussed the state of research narratively to provide an overview of the topical foci and methodological and conceptual trends.

Research limitations/implications
First, although the databases of the study are claimed to be regularly updated locally, these two search databases may inevitably have missed some journal articles relevant to the inclusion criteria. A possible solution is to include more databases like ERIC, PsycArticles, SAGE, ScienceDirect, PsycINFO, Web of Science and ProQuest. Second, the authors decided to limit the exploration of journal articles on transformative leadership to peer-reviewed journal articles. The authors might have missed a wider range of insights available in book chapters, books, research papers, dissertations and gray literature. Third, as there were many levels of research foci, the authors did the coding on research foci and methods. However, the approach may not allow authors to explore the relationships between research foci and method design. One possible solution is to do all coding in one file so that more complex analysis can follow. Finally, the authors agree that TSL is only one leadership style that is related to leadership effectiveness and that effective leadership is multi-faceted and requires a combination of leadership styles. Accordingly, the evidence in the study sheds light on only one dimension of leadership effectiveness.

Our review is part of an effort to demonstrate the importance of a culturally-situated understanding of TSL and to develop a globally validated knowledge base. It identifies and summarizes research in a non-Western school context defined by centrality, lack of autonomy and accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-530
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

'This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact'


  • Transformational school leadership
  • Systematic review
  • Topographical mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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