Fr Peter Hosking SJ, Rector of Saint Ignatius’ College Adelaide, reflects on the dual leadership model which is a contemporary feature of Australian Jesuit schools.
The model of shared leadership by Principal and Rector has been in operation in Jesuit schools in Australia since the mid-1990s. I have been a Rector to three Principals. Each has been different and I have learnt a great deal from being able to work with each. A strength of this model lies in a sharing of wisdom by companions in ministry. We accompany each other in our areas of responsibility. Dual leadership works best when we maintain and foster a warm and open relationship with each other. We advise, encourage, and counsel each other where appropriate. We inform, consult and support each other in major decisions. It is a model that can work with other ministries. Dual leadership does rely on people working well together and investing in their communication, trust and accountability. In the Jesuit Constitutions, Ignatius emphasized selecting people well, training them well, missioning them with trust, and having systems of accountability to keep them connected. This is good advice for these two roles of leadership.
The Principal is appointed by the College Board, with the approval of the Chair of Jesuit Education Australia (JEA). The Rector is a Jesuit and is appointed directly by the Provincial following consultation with the Chair of the College Board. Both the Rector and the Principal report directly to the College Board. Harmony and congruence between the Rector, Principal and the College Board should be the norm. Shared leadership is about complementarity of roles, not duplication. There is room for the specific responsibilities to be negotiated according to the particular gifts of the people in the role of Rector or Principal. By mutual agreement and in consultation with the Chair of JEA and the Chair of the College Board, the responsibilities may be interpreted by those in the roles at a given time.
As the leaders of the College, the Rector and Principal have a shared responsibility for ensuring that the authenticity of the Jesuit identity and Ignatian ethos are preserved and nurtured and that the College properly functions as a Catholic school. The demarcation of responsibility between Rector and Principal can be understood by the lines of responsibility, who reports to whom. Areas such as mission and vision, Governance, risk, crisis management, legal responsibilities, strategic and master planning, and other things are done together. They ensure there is a strong sense of collaboration between Jesuits and our lay colleagues and that an Ignatian approach to discernment is maintained. The Rector and Principal are responsible for effective liaison with the Jesuit Provincial and Province entities, as well as the international Jesuit network. They are official spokespersons for the College and in times of significant public comment, there should be one voice speaking for the College.
As leader of the College, the Principal is responsible for the management, good order and quality of performance of the College and the educational and pastoral welfare of the College, students and staff. As the educational leader, the Principal is responsible for articulating the vision of the College, ensuring that the highest standards of educationalendeavour, school operations and pastoral care are maintained and developed. The Principal has responsibility for setting policy in implementing the mission and philosophy of Saint Ignatius’ as a Jesuit school. As the Chief Executive Officer, the Principal is responsible for ensuring that the Leadership Team implements College policies and Board directives from the perspective of the Jesuit identity and ethos. The Principal is responsible for the running of the College, its ordinary administrative structures, and the administration of the academic curriculum, pastoral services, discipline, and co-curricular programs. This includes the engagement of staff and the enrolment of students. The Principal is responsible for issues of Government compliance, Child protection and Work, Health and Safety matters. The Principal represents the College at meetings of Principals.
As the custodian and animator of the Ignatian ethos and Jesuit tradition, the Rector is responsible for the spiritual and religious health of the College community and the programs to nourish its development. He has a special responsibility for the pastoral welfare of students, parents and staff. The Rector is the guardian and inspirer of the Catholic identity and mission of the College. He is leader and steward in developing and supporting policies and procedures that enhance the Jesuit identity and Ignatian spirituality of the College community. As a Revisor, not a court of appeal, he has responsibility for addressing any aspect that may diminish or endanger the essential Jesuit characteristics of the College. He promotes the Province’s mission and goals. The Rector has the right and responsibility to be involved in all core College business and should be very familiar with all policies and procedures governing the College. He is a member of those Board and Executive Committees that affect the strategic life of the College. The Rector works with the Principal in matters of importance relating to the identity and operation of the College as a Jesuit school, for example in the appointment of staff in leadership positions as well as any other staff appointments that relate to his areas of responsibility. The Rector has a special care for the faith formation of the College community including leadership in the liturgical, spiritual and service life of the College. The Rector is Chaplain to the College, its staff, students and families and is involved in the sacramental and pastoral needs of the wider Ignatian community.
Any role of Christian leadership relies on a good understanding of servant leadership. We serve a purpose greater than our self. We spend much of our time on the difficult matters to mend and build relationships. This is not about success, popularity, prestige as measured by worldly standards. We are called to practise an ethic of concern and hospitality, so no one is excluded from the table or left behind. We seek to reframe unjust and inhumane realities into an alternative vision of hope and promise. We promote a vision of love, inclusion and human flourishing. We dedicate ourselves to the formation of our students into people of virtue and communities that embody God’s goodness.
Fr Peter Hosking SJ