With the Hands: Organizational Leadership


How can Catholic school administrators best utilize their limited time and energy for the greatest impact on the smooth operation of the school?

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Leading any organization is a daunting task. The hands-on aspect of keeping an organization running smoothly can pose a special challenge to school leaders. In the Catholic school, principals are asked to be responsible for the organizational vitality of the school while simultaneously serving as the all-important spiritual and educational leader.

Leading any organization is a daunting task. The hands-on aspect of keeping an organization running smoothly can pose a special challenge to school leaders. In the Catholic school, principals are asked to be responsible for the organizational vitality of the school while simultaneously serving as the all-important spiritual and educational leader.

Although well-trained in educational leadership requirements, Catholic school principals often do not have extensive preparation in business practices for their roles as organizational managers and leaders. So how can the Catholic school administrator best utilize his or her limited time and energy in order to have the greatest impact on the smooth operation of the school? This task can be made more manageable if the principal understands some basic principles of leadership and professional management and how to apply them to the school setting.

One of the most important roles of the principal as the organizational leader of the Catholic school is to inspire. The leader illustrates and communicates the vision of the school to all stakeholders, both internal and external. He or she makes the vision clear and real for others and reminds them to keep that vision front and center at all times. It is the principal’s steadfast adherence to a school’s vision, based on a strong foundation of Catholic identity, that inspires and motivates others to be active co-creators in growing a shared vision and bringing it to life. Working together, the principal and representative faculty, parents, and other stakeholders can develop strategic goals and objectives that are in line with their basic beliefs about the school and reflect the vision. These strategies form the basis for identifying activities, timelines, and responsible persons critical in working toward the vision.

What else do administrators need to know about professional management practices, and why do they need to know it? Understanding effective management practices and applying them to the educational setting results in the smoother operation of the school. Basic components of professional management include strategic planning, school culture, organizational performance, people development, leadership, and structure. When school leaders have an understanding of these factors, both individually and in the way they interact with one another, the school as an organization benefits.

For example, leaders are often charged with introducing and leading change. Knowledge of the powerful part culture plays in leading change in a school can assist the leader and everyone else in adapting to something new. We often hear the phrases “culture eats strategy for lunch” and “culture always wins” — meaning that the best-designed plans can crumble if they conflict with the culture of a school. Effective leaders find ways to work within the existing culture and slowly move that culture in the direction of a desired change.

People development is another important area in leading any organization. The leader works daily to maximize the greatest asset of a school: its human resources. A strong leader will encourage, challenge, and empower the staff and teachers at every turn. Principals can also gain powerful assistance and support from their parent base. Engaged and involved parents add great value to the school organization. Parents often have specific business skills that can greatly benefit the school. The time and attention required in developing people pays big dividends for the leader and contributes to the overall strength of the school.

As an organizational leader, the principal is responsible for putting structures and systems in place that add to the efficient operation of the Catholic school. Creating procedures and processes that support good management of both time and resources creates a well-organized school and makes everyone’s work easier. A carefully crafted plan for understanding and influencing culture, developing people, and implementing structures that support the desired change contributes to the success of the organization. More effective professional management leads to greater efficiency — and ultimately to better outcomes for schools.

The principal’s role as organizational leader is central to the smooth and effective operation of the school. In fact, strong leadership skills and professional management practices serve to support and enhance the principal’s work as both the spiritual and educational leader.

It is these three dimensions of leadership — spiritual, educational, and organizational — working together in harmony that create the optimal environment for teaching and learning in the Catholic school.

Image credit: Pixabay

Louise “Toni” Moore, PhD, is an educational consultant at the University of Dayton.

Image credit: Pixabay

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With the Hands: Organizational Leadership
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