The implementation of sustainability-related policies at universities has been marked by a greater sense of urgency in recent years. Despite this emerging trend, it is still unclear which leadership processes, at which levels and which theoretical concepts encourage sustainable transitions within universities.
This study aims to offer a systematic literature review of the existing literature on sustainability-related leadership processes, levels and theories that encourage the transformation of universities, aimed at providing guidance on this topic; uncovering gaps in the literature; and finding new paths for future research.
Leadership processes in the context of sustainability-related transitions have been approached in a rather fragmented way in the literature, and the scientific field would benefit from more in-depth and longitudinal studies. In total, this study identifies 95 processes that are related to 17 aspects of universities’ transitions.
The various leadership levels are involved in transition processes at different stages. The theories of distributed and sustainability leadership seem to be the most frequently used theories in the literature.
Structuring and defining leadership processes, levels and theories can lead to a better understanding of the dynamics of the transition process and, in a broader sense, of the process of sustainability integration in higher education. A better knowledge of how such a transition develops could contribute to the enhancement of existing sustainable development strategy and policy.
By focusing on an underresearched topic through a theoretical perspective of leadership theories, this study contributes to literature pertaining to leadership levels and processes involved in sustainability transitions of universities.
Funding: Financial support for this work in form of a doctoral scholarship for Leyla Azizi was received from the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.
Funding: Partial financial support for this work in form of a doctoral scholarship for Leyla Azizi was received from the Hanns-Seidel Foundation, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.
Azizi, L. (2023), "Which leadership processes encourage sustainable transitions within universities?", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 46-68. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-12-2021-0510
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