Moral leadership: A proposed theory illustrated by select Catholic secondary school principals

David Lee Coppola, Fordham University


This study proposes a theory of moral leadership consisting of five dimensions. The theory describes moral leaders as people who (a) share their spiritual and theistic world views, (b) practice higher moral reasoning, (c) inspire others to act with a vision, (d) intentionally build community and covenants, and (e) exercise a commitment to social justice. After the researcher constructed this theory of moral leadership, five Catholic secondary school principals were interviewed and observed in relationship to their school communities to see how they illustrated the theory. The primary data collection method was in-depth interviews where contextual language provided insight into the meaning and value frameworks of the participants. The three in-depth interviews were structured in such a way that the principals' life histories, experiences, and values emerged around the theory of moral leadership. An interview guide steered the second interview and afforded the opportunity for discussion by the principals about moral leadership themes. These interviews were followed by shadowing the principals and observing the personnel, policies, and practices of their school communities over 3 days, within 2 weeks, concluding with a final interview for clarifications and further discussion. Although the researcher remained open to other unexpected themes which might have emerged, these five dimensions of moral leadership contextually guided the interview process. The findings indicated that the principals manifested their leadership in ways that provided strong evidence for the proposed theory of moral leadership. The descriptive data elicited from these principals were appropriate for exploring the issues and themes that comprised leadership in general. The data also helped to focus and enlarge the issues raised in previous research on the practice of moral leadership in particular. Chapter V discusses these findings and presents them around the areas of moral leadership, spiritual leadership, styles of moral leadership, tensions in moral leadership, and the Catholic school. The chapter concludes with implications for future research, practice, and policy.

Subject Area

School administration|Religious education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Coppola, David Lee, "Moral leadership: A proposed theory illustrated by select Catholic secondary school principals" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9839504.