Institutionalizing the founder's charism: An inquiry into the exercise of leadership by principals of American Dominican schools

Colleen Patricia McNicholas, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to identify and describe whether and how selected Dominican secondary school principals communicate the Dominican charism through their leadership vision and empower the faculty to integrate this charism into their professional activity. The study examined the leadership beliefs and behavior of five Dominican Sisters who serve as principals in secondary schools owned by their respective Dominican congregations and compared the leadership of these principals to discover similarities in the articulation of the charism. The examination of the Dominican charism was limited to three components: an orientation to study, a contemplative attitude and prayer, and collaboration based on mutual respect. Non-participant observation and semi-structured interviews were the methods used to assess the principals' influence on the expression of these components in the beliefs and activities of selected faculty, the staff development program, the academic tone, the fine arts curriculum, the religious practices, and governance structures within the school. The study found that (a) there was some diversity among the principals in relationship to their understanding of the charism, (b) there were common elements and values, communicated by four of the five principals and empowered in four of the five faculties, which illustrated the presence of the three components of the charism within the life of the school, and (c) the basic difference within the leadership of the principals was in the degree of communication and empowerment across the five principals and faculties. It concluded that these commonalities and differences speak to the issue of future leadership of Dominican secondary schools. The study recommended that a task force of experienced Dominican principals develop a leadership renewal program which allows current principals to generate discussion on the charism with implications for educational leadership. It further recommended that models be developed which orient future principals to Dominican leadership from both a theoretical and practical perspective. This study is significant because it seeks to initiate a discussion on the complex issue of institutionalizing the charism within Dominican secondary schools and points out that the role of leadership is crucial to this institutionalization.

Subject Area

School administration|Library science|Language

Recommended Citation

McNicholas, Colleen Patricia, "Institutionalizing the founder's charism: An inquiry into the exercise of leadership by principals of American Dominican schools" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109247.