Transformational Leadershipship for Marist Schools

1. Set a vision. Transformational leaders are future oriented people who are able to see fundamental discrepancies between the way things are and the way they should be, 'They recognise the shortcomings of a present order and offer an imaginative vision to overcome them' (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1999, p.296). Marcellin took this approach. In the early nineteenth century, for example, he saw the need to assist with the eradication of illiteracy in rural France especially among the poor. The figures below confirm this need (Heffernan, 1992, p.149).

Marcellin always stressed the importance of the presence of God. He insisted on the Brothers participating in their daily Eucharist and of being continually aware of the presence of God. Today, as school communities, we have the opportunity and, I believe, the responsibility to participate in prayer and shared reflection. In this way we have a better chance of being able to interpret the will of God, and therefore the vision appropriate for our schools. Our Marist tradition and texts provide valuable resources for such prayer, reflection and interpretation.

2. Share the vision. If transformational leaders are to be successful, they must share the vision (Fullan, 1993, p.28). Doing so inspires followers to embrace this vision. In communicating the vision, transformational leaders are encouraged to make use of metaphors, analogies and stories rather than 'abstract and colorless rational discourse' (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1999, p.300). Public occasions provide an excellent opportunity for good quality sharing by a Marist leader of his or her vision. Such occasions include school assemblies, speech nights, school masses and formal openings of school facilities.

In more recent years, Marist Brothers have become aware that Marcellin Champagnat's charism is not just for the Brothers but for the Church and the world. During 1999, the Catholic Church highlighted this with the elevation of Marcellin to sainthood. Early signs df this desire to share Champagnat's vision more broadly occurred in 1985 with the launching of the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family in the following words (Marist Brothers, 1990, p.11):

The Holy Spirit is stirring up lay people in the Church today, sparking a new response to their vocation as followers of Jesus and sharers in His mission of evangelizing the world. As a result, numbers of people closely associated with the Marist Brothers around the world asked the Brothers to help them make their personal, daily commitment more profound and concrete. They want to share more fully in the spirituality and sense of mission which the Brothers have inherited from their founder, Blessed Marcellin Champagnat.

Through this Movement, students, lay teachers, parents, friends and Marist Brothers are now formally recognised as having the opportunity to live Marcellin Champagnat's spirituality, to follow his approach to education and to contribute to the development of Marcellin Champagnat's social movement.

3. Personalise leadership Transformational leaders are intensely relational and expressive (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1999 p.302). They nurture their relationships through the time they spend with each member of their staff or group. Through such contact, the leader's vision is likely to be communicated to the person and the opportunity is provided for the member of the group to deepen his or her understanding of the vision through dialogue with the leader who remains the key person in overseeing the implementation of the vision.

Consultation about decisions provides the transformational leader with a special opportunity to nurture relationships with followers. Marcellin Champagnat exemplified this practice when, as leader of the social movement, he spent a year consulting his Brothers before implementing the first Rule of 1837.

4. Empower others. Transformational leaders are enthusiastic about empowering others. They give their followers tasks 'that lead to successively greater success experiences and heightened self-confidence, thus persuading .followers of their capabilities and creating an environment of heightened excitement and positive emotions while, at the same time, role-modeling and symbolising the group's purpose (Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy, 1999, p.303). Such empowerment is consistent with the Church's teaching of subsidiarity. Marcellin put this principle into practice from the start. At the time of his death in 1840, Marcellin had founded 53 establishments. 180 Brothers were teaching some 7000 students. He believed all the dioceses of the world come within the scope of his movement's mission.

The challenge for Marist transformational leaders is to continue to harness these varied gifts for the promotion of the Reign of God in the way of Mary.

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04 June 2021

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