The servant-leadership role of selected Catholic high school principals
Nsiah, Joseph Kofi
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The purpose of this study was to explore the servant-leadership role of selected Catholic high school principals, and to investigate how this leadership ideal is manifest in their daily professional lives. I employed a qualitative case study design, using the constructivist paradigm. The data gathering methods consisted of several interviews with each of the six participants, and extended field observation engagements with two of the principals. For the participants of this study, family background, professional and extra-curricular experiences, and priests, were important sources of their notions of servant-leadership. Participants perceived Faith in Jesus Christ, and the positive outcomes of their Faith-informed professional practice as progenitive of their notions of servant-leadership. The culminating framework from this study identified faith in Jesus Christ as the foundation of participants’ servant-leadership. According to this framework, respondents’ childhood experiences, mental models, passions, motivations, and professional convictions, served as antecedents to their identity formation which, in turn, propelled them towards servant-leadership. This framework delineated five aspects of servant-leadership: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, community-inspired vision, relational credibility, sustained trust, and service. Service was identified as the culminating dimension, with the understanding that servant-leadership is established and strengthened in the very act of rendering service (through the day-to-day characteristics of servant-leadership), without which servant-leadership for Catholic school principals was considered meaningless. According to the findings from study data, servant-leader signifying and inspiring qualities required of the servant-leader, included the following: altruism, patience, compassion, caring for the interests and growth of followers, living by example, and the unselfish desire to serve others. Additional fruits of servant-leadership are empowerment and respect for followers, establishment of healthy relationships, support for one another, collaborative leadership, offering constituents different possibilities for development, community building, self sacrifice of the leader for his/her community, and the servant-leader truly representing the idea of service to members of the school community. Strategies for success in servant-leadership included tenacity of purpose, respect for all in the school community, fostering collaboration, care and trust of followers, and avoidance of needless reprimands in the event of failure. An underlying theme of this study is that servant-leadership provides hope for followers because of its exceptional interest in helping them develop their potentials and grow to become leaders. This study generated several implications for policy, practice, and further research. First, the policy requiring principals of Catholic high schools to be practicing Catholics and to pattern their leadership practices on the servant-leadership model warrants continuance. Second, a policy that superintendents of Catholic school districts make an intentional choice to promote servant-leadership would serve a good purpose. Third, using vivid servant-leadership symbols as a way of making a lasting impression on new principals during the hiring process is a practice worth continuing. Fourth, directors, superintendents, principals, and chaplains need to continue the practice of exemplary servant-leadership as an inspiration to new and other leaders. And, finally, a future researcher on this same topic may wish to include the perceptions of staff members, parents, and students in focus groups to generate in-depth data for analyses.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Servant-Leadership: Sources and Practice