Leadership Role Expectations and Relationships of Principals and Pastors in Catholic Parochial Elementary Schools: Part 2

Article excerpt

This review examines several topics that inform many struggles currently experienced in the relationship between a canonical pastor and the principal of the parochial elementary school. Drawing on current research, this review examines various leadership theories, including the popular servant leadership model, and proceeds to a discussion of role expectations, role conflict, and role ambiguity.


The school principal is generally identified as a primary decision maker in both public and private schools. However, since the Catholic parochial school is a ministry of the parish, the pastor, along with the principal, is also designated as a primary decision maker within the school. If the principal and pastor do not have a clear understanding of their own role and the role of the other in the school, then a positive working relationship between these two leaders may be affected.

This is the second of four articles that focus on research designed to identify leadership expectations that may be perceived differently by pastors and principals. The first article focused on basic background information regarding Catholic elementary schools in the United States, their place within the Catholic Church, the role of the pastor, and the role of the principal. This article addresses several understandings of the term leadership in order to establish a basis for determining the roles of a leader; the concepts of power and authority and how they are perceived as relating to leadership; the concepts of role expectations, role conflict, and role ambiguity and how each of these affects the leader; and team building and collaboration and how they affect organizational effectiveness. The third and fourth articles will focus on previous research on pastor and principal relationships, a recent study and findings, and possible recommendations for pastors and principals.


There are numerous leadership theories that have emerged throughout the years. Some of the primary theories include a traits approach to leadership, a style approach, a situational approach, contingency theory, path-goal theory, leader-member exchange theory, and transformational theory. Dobbs, Gordon, Lee, and Stamps (1999) have taken a more informal approach to leadership theory and have delineated 10 general leadership theory categories:

* Biology is destiny. The leader is the alpha male with the most testosterone.

* It's all about power. Might makes right.

* Paternalism. The leader should be the brightest and most virtuous.

* Contingency. It all depends on the situation. (p. 26)

* Charisma. Leadership is embedded in the personalities of Great Men.

* Historical determinism. The times create the leader.

* Transaction-based. Followers act in their own self-interest.

* Reason-based. Leaders lead by ideas.

* Census-based. Leaders encourage followers to buy into a common program.

* Values-based. Leaders are moral agents and enablers of followers. (p. 27)

These authors divide the 10 theories into two major categories: leaders who get their followers to serve them for selfish purposes and those who help their followers fulfill their needs and achieve their goals.

Clearly there are many understandings of leadership, but primarily leadership is about relationships. Leadership is management by persuasion and inspiration, rather than direct or implied coercion. It is the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led in order to solicit obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation. It is a non-coercive relationship between leader and followers.

Therefore, leadership is an influence process. It influences people toward shared goals. Leadership is "the ability to mobilize others in a positive way" (Daloz, Keen, Keen, & Daloz Parks, 1996, p. 42). "Leadership means that one individual has a better than average sense of what should be done now, and is willing to take the risk to say: Let us do this now" (Greenleaf, 1991, p. …