Lavery, S. D. (2012). The Catholic school principal: A transcendent leader?. Journal of Catholic School Studies, 84 (1), 36-42.
In the early 1990s Sergiovanni (1993) pointed out, with a touch of cynicism, that despite the multitude of leadership studies over many years “we still do not understand what distinguishes leaders from non leaders, e!ective leaders from ineffective leaders, and effective organisations from ineffective organisations” (p. 1). He argued that one of the reasons for this confusion was an overemphasis on what he called “bureaucratic, psychological and technical-rational authority” (p. 1), while neglecting professional and moral authority. As an antidote to this situation, Sergiovanni (1993) argued that the moral dimension of leadership must be moved “from the periphery to the centre of inquiry, discussion and practice” (p. 2). One way of placing the moral dimension of leadership squarely at centre stage is to view leadership through the transcendental lens of service and spirituality. This article explores the notion of transcendental leadership and the appropriateness of this leadership model for principals in Catholic schools. As a prelude, transactional and transformational leadership models are reviewed. The point is that while elements of these models are still valuable, Catholic school principals are called on to exercise leadership beyond organisational expertise and a collegial understanding of the leader’s vision. Transcendental leadership is then examined from the dual positions of service and spirituality. The notion of service permeates all actions of a transcendental leader. In particular, the transcendental leader is constantly concerned for the needs of those with whom he or she collaborates. The essential understanding of the spiritual component of transcendental leadership is that the leader acts from the entirety of who he or she is as a person. Finally, the article posits a range of implications of this model for principals in Catholic schools. These implications include: Catholic school principals are called to be servant leaders in the spirit of Jesus (Mt 10:45; Mt 23:11; Lk 22:26; Jn 13); their leadership is based on deep reflection; they practise the Catholic social doctrine of subsidiarity to ensure genuine decision-making opportunities for all members within the school community; and the spiritual standard by which they act is grounded in the wider notion of Catholic social doctrine.