Educational Leadership and the Impact of Religious Charism

By Fitzgerald, Mary Ssnd | Momentum, February/March 2009 | Go to article overview

Educational Leadership and the Impact of Religious Charism


Fitzgerald, Mary Ssnd, Momentum


In the Catholic tradition, the definition of educational leadership is nuanced by the Gospel and often by the charism of a founding religious community

We live in an age in which the qualities of leadership are sought out by public and private companies, businesses, industries, health care and social agencies and a host of employers. Success in leadership now is identified not just by product output but also by the creative design of the organization, which draws out the best in all employees. Managers could serve the past well because it was an age of production. Today, we need leaders, people who are comfortable visioning, delegating and empowering others to bring about a transformation of the needs of society.

Many prominent writers have shed light upon the topic of leadership. Contemporary writers such as Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, Daniel Goleman and Daniel Pink have addressed contemporary problems and given us new insights into ageless human relations challenges.

So much of the definition of leadership depends upon the of the definer. What are the expectations of the constituencies of individual leaders? The answer to that question helps to define leadership in a particular locus. In the Catholic tradition, the definition of educational leadership is nuanced by the Gospel and often by the charism of a founding religious community. A charism is a spiritual gift, given by God to a group of people for service in the church. To state it another way, charism is the interface between the interior gifts of a community and the needs of the world. In my educational experience, I have benefited from the charisms of my own religious community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The educational philosophy of the School Sisters of Notre Dame evolved from the writings of the foundress, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, and the lived experience of the sisters. This philosophy continues to animate schools with historical roots to our religious community. Other religious communities have similarly rich traditions and charisms, but I limit my discussion to my own lived experience.

What Do We Really Mean by Leadership?

At the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, we work with the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) standards in preparing students for leadership positions in schools. These standards give us a framework for assessing competence in the area of educational leadership. Essentially, the standards identify qualities and skills that commonly are linked with good leaders. There are seven ELCC standards. The listing is in no priority order.

* Standard 1

Candidates who complete the program are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation and stewardship of a school or district vision of learning supported by the school community.

* Standard 2

Candidates who complete the program are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by promoting a positive school culture, providing an effective instructional program, applying the best practices to student learning and designing comprehensive professional growth plans for staff.

* Standard 3

Candidates who complete the program are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by managing the organization, operations and resources in a way that promotes a safe, efficient and effective learning environment.

* Standard 4

Candidates who complete the program are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by collaborating with families and other community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs and mobilizing community resources.

* Standard 5

Candidates who complete the program are educational leaders who have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by acting with integrity, fairly and in an ethical manner. …

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Educational Leadership and the Impact of Religious Charism
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