This qualitative study explored the question, “What does leadership look like in Alberta’s Catholic high schools”. Through survey, focus groups, and interviews with Catholic principals across the province, data was generated. The voices of Alberta’s Catholic high school principals emerged in significant ways. With 38% of the province’s principals responding to the initial survey, 23% of them participating in focus group discussions and 9% of them providing in depth insights through one on one interviews, a broad, varied, and comprehensive picture evolved. Through the use of grounded theory methodology, six complex themes emerged from the data: 1) Called: the vocation of the principal; 2) Entrusted: the responsibilities of the Catholic principal; 3) Gathered: the principal in community; 4) Liberated: freedom to “be” in a Catholic school culture; 5) Challenged: Leading 21st Century Catholic School; and 6) Appointed: Leadership in a Catholic school. An exploration of these themes in relation to the literature on leadership and Catholic schools resulted in a proposed framework for Catholic school leadership. Viewed through the lens of a Catholic paradigm, Catholic culture and community become the essential context for the discussion. Key leadership characteristics included a vocational call, intrinsic motivation, a compelling vision, an abiding love of others, a strong sense of hope, the leader as witness and servant, and the capacity to sacrifice. Catholic high school principals in Alberta told their stories with a language steeped in faith and a perspective that reflected their Catholic understanding of the world and their work. Catholic school leadership is spiritual leadership.
This study provides synthesis and clarity regarding Catholic leadership in Alberta’s high schools. As well, a deeper understanding of the expectations for the province’s Catholic principals was realized. Principals’ opportunity for personal reflection enhanced their own understanding of their lived experience. By bringing the principals own voices to the table this study contributes to and enhances the literature on Catholic school leadership. Recommendations for Catholic principals, Catholic school boards, ACSTA and the provincial government conclude the study.