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Leadership Development Experiences of Exemplary Roman Catholic Parish Priests: An Exploratory Study Open Access

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bold>Leadership Development Experiences of Exemplary Roman Catholic Parish Priests: An Exploratory Studyby Ong, Rosemarie, Ed.D., bold>GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, 2013, 269 pagesAbstract: This qualitative, phenomenological study addressed the research question: How do exemplary Roman Catholic parish priests perceive and describe their leadership development experience? The study explored experiences considered important in developing leadership, including how they occurred, the meaning provided, the definition of exemplary leadership in the parish setting, and support for leadership development. The research used the leadership, leadership development, and experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984) literature. The results inform practice related to leadership development and priestly formation. Ten exemplary pastors assigned to an archdiocese in a U.S. metropolitan area were selected from recommendations of referral sources (Sternberg, 1994). Each pastor reconstructed his leadership development experiences during a series of in-depth interviews (Seidman, 2006). Reduction and thematic analysis (Colaizzi, 1978; Moustakas, 1994; Seidman, 2006) led to the identification of seven defining experiences of leadership development and their important characteristics.The study offers the following conclusions with respect to the pastors' leadership development: (1) exemplary leadership in a parish setting encompasses spiritual, organizational, and community leadership roles, with the spiritual dimension the underlying force driving leadership action; (2) the experience of leadership development shows some of the significant types of experiences reported in the general leadership literature as essential to leadership development; (3) leadership development is a highly individual process of varied experiences, with particular characteristics and different levels of interaction, and spiritual beliefs and positive values are integral contributors; (4) specific learning approaches are employed in the experience of leadership development; and (5) the meaning that evolved from the leadership development experiences was a gradual transformation in understanding and approaching leadership. Further research across parishes and religious orders would enhance the study's transferability.

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