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Contemplative Leadership

What is Contemplative Leadership?

Contemplative leadership is a leadership model for the Catholic educational context that includes prayerful reflection (contemplation) and intentional decision making (action). The goal of contemplative leadership is to facilitate the creation of a Catholic faith-filled school community. A contemplative school leader understands the vocation of Catholic educator and the ministry of Catholic education.


Where are the theoretical roots of contemplative leadership?

What distinguishes contemplative leadership practice is the integration of three theoretical underpinnings (character, leadership, reflection) that necessitate a Catholic school leader to think about their own thinking within an integration of their professional knowledge and their character. The impact of virtues, special communities and life stories, on shaping beliefs, worldview, and decisions demonstrates the character of a Catholic school leader. Contemplative Catholic school leaders deliberate about the consequences of their decisions in relation to Gospel values, Catholic theology and Church tradition. Coherence between beliefs and behaviors is essential for contemplative leadership.


What does contemplative leadership look like in practice?

Within contemplative practice, leadership behaviors include implementing a transformational vision, creating supportive conditions for learning, participatory governance structures and community building activities.  In turn, the contemplative leader encourages teacher behaviors that include an emphasis on faith integration across the curriculum, discipline strategies that highlight personal responsibility and a Catholic worldview infused into daily classroom life. Contemplative leadership practice inspires a faith learning community for holistic student development.


Three examples of contemplative leadership.

Catholic Identity
Contemplative practice and Catholic identity are entwined. As a contemplative leader, when I (we school leaders) make decisions for my school community; my thinking is informed by my personal Catholic identity. I consider what my faith teaches about being a Catholic Christian in my role as a school leader. In addition, I consider how my decisions impact the formation of Catholic identity within my school community. For example, are devotions and liturgy given priority in our calendar/scheduling discussions?

Academic Excellence
The contemplative leader is an academic leader with an emphasis on excellence. A contemplative leader reminds the school community of their Catholic Intellectual Tradition that challenges each member to grow in their abilities to use their God-given talents. A contemplative leader encourages and models lifelong learning within their faculty. Teachers, in turn, inspire their students toward high performance in all areas of their curriculum. The contemplative leader’s message is that we all—in this school community—grow and learn to be the best persons we can be to serve God in this world and be with him in the next.

Executive Management
The contemplative leader carries out their executive management responsibilities while considering dilemmas posed by budgets.  These include financial aid distribution or balancing the costs of remedial and gifted programs.  These financial challenges are exposed to Gospel Values and our responsibility to the poorest and most vulnerable among the community.


The contemplative leader reflects on the rationale for their decisions, the messages sent by their decisions to the school community, and how individuals or groups will be impacted by that decision. Each decision is reflected upon through prayer, our Catholic theology and tradition and communicated through a collaborative process that acknowledges that there is seldom a flawless decision. Therefore, the consequences of the decision are evaluated and used to inform future decisions.

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