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The networked principal: Examining principals’ social relationships and transformational leadership in school and district networks

Nienke M. Moolenaar (Department of Education, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands and Department of Education Studies, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA)
Peter J. C. Sleegers (Department of Educational Organization and Management, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




While in everyday practice, school leaders are often involved in social relationships with a variety of stakeholders both within and outside their own schools, studies on school leaders’ networks often focus either on networks within or outside schools. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which principals occupy similar positions in their school’s network and the larger district network. In addition, the authors examined whether principals’ centrality in both networks can be attributed to demographic characteristics and transformational leadership (TL).


Using social network analysis, correlational and regression analysis, and an advanced social network technique, namely p2 modeling, the authors analyzed data collected among 708 educators in 46 Dutch elementary schools. The authors also offer a visualization of the district social network to explore principals’ relationships with other principals in the district.


Results suggest that principals who occupy a central position in their school’s advice network are also more likely to occupy a central position in their district’s collaborative leadership network. Moreover, TL was found to affect the extent to which principals are central in both networks.


The study is unique as it simultaneously explores principals’ social relationships in schools and the larger district. Moreover, the authors advance the knowledge of TL as a possible mechanism that may shape the pattern of these relationships, thereby connecting two streams of literature that were until now largely disconnected. Limitations to the study warrant further qualitative and longitudinal research on principals’ social relationships in schools, districts, and the larger community.



This work is part of the ICONS research project (an international project Investigating the Complexity of Networks in Schools), which is (partly) financed by a Rubicon grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Marie Curie Cofund Action (446-10-023). The authors would like to acknowledge Alan Daly, Heather Price and two anonymous reviewers for their support in preparation of the manuscript.


Moolenaar, N.M. and Sleegers, P.J.C. (2015), "The networked principal: Examining principals’ social relationships and transformational leadership in school and district networks", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 8-39.



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