Magazine article Momentum

Igniting Heart and Mind of Leadership

Magazine article Momentum

Igniting Heart and Mind of Leadership

Article excerpt

What if every Catholic school possessed the untapped potential to ignite passion and hope for the mission of Catholic education? Nurturing the hearts and minds of leaders is key to the ongoing vitality of Catholic schools and their students. When 1 first became principal of a Catholic school, 1 realized that people were looking to me to be their spiritual leader. 1 had been involved with Catholic schools all my life, as a student and a teacher, but the faith community had always been nurtured and guided by the vowed religious - priests, brothers and sisters. Their numbers had dwindled and that role was transitioning to lay leaders like me. At the time, 1 wasn't comfortable or prepared to be a spiritual leader, and 1 wasn't alone. 1 was also suddenly faced with managing an entire organization. 1 did not have adequate understanding of the professional management skills to provide leadership in this area. 1 felt most prepared for the principal's role as educational leader. However, with few additional budget dollars for professional development training, even that became a challenge. Personally, 1 felt that 1 needed a more integrated training and formation experience to perform my role as leader of a Catholic school, but 1 did not know where to go to find it.

Why is leadership so important? Through my experience as a Catholic school teacher 1 have learned that in order to inspire new leaders, we must begin by being positive, effective leaders ourselves. Every Catholic school possesses this potential and spirit to teach and encourage the next generation of leaders. Leadership in Catholic schools involves the integration of three primary leadership dimensions: spiritual, educational and managerial. The integration of these three dimensions creates the unique lens through which we can view professional development and preparation for Catholic school leaders.

The Three D s of Catholic School Leadership

Spiritual Leadership

We can learn important lessons regarding spiritual formation from vowed religious communities. Emerging studies on leadership in Catholic schools found a concern for the level of Catholic identity in schools, and a lack of confidence among lay leaders in those schools. In my Ph.D. research, 1 found that people who had gone through formation in religious communities were more committed to faith development than lay people in schools. They were more satisfied and felt they were more effective as spiritual leaders. I also found that the attitude of people who had left their religious order correlated closely with the religious. So ^^ it wasn't their current situation that was important, it was their formation experience.

How can we help lay persons assume the role of spiritual leadership when they oftentimes lack formal and intentional spiritual formation experiences? Obviously, we can't have lay leaders live together, as the religious often did, but we can start by building a trusting community. By looking first inside at their relationship with God, educators can examine how they can best serve the world. At the same time, leaders must demonstrate specific skills in educational and managerial leadership. By leading a life modeled on the commitment and love of Jesus, we are igniting the heart. In acquiring the specific skills necessary to lead an effective educational organization, we are igniting the mind. This holistic, spiritual approach can be identified as "inside-out leadership," which delves further into the individual and spiritual, rather than merely training educators in academic subjects. Professional training is still an important aspect of educational leadership but has a much greater impact when combined with spiritual development. Through inside-out leadership, we light the spark within our future leaders, who are the beacons of hope for Catholic schools.

Managerial Leadership

What do educators need to know about professional management practices, and why do they need to know it? …

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