02/07/2024 by Michael Truesdell |

Leading with Purpose: A President’s Guide to Effective Board Leadership

The task of appointing board leadership by Presidents of Catholic high schools is an important one. In the world of Catholic education, the path to success is paved with faith, commitment, and effective board leadership. For those of us entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding these institutions, the role of board members, whether they're known as trustees or directors, is paramount. In the unique landscape of Catholic high schools, their appointment is guided by higher spiritual authorities, a reflection of the sacred nature of our mission. As we delve into the heart of this dynamic relationship between school Presidents and board members, we'll explore the ways to enrich and nurture the vital contributions of these unpaid volunteers. It's not just a matter of governance; it's about shaping the future of our students, our faith, and our Catholic community.

Understanding the Unique Structure

In the realm of Catholic high schools, board members are entrusted with their roles by a higher authority, such as a Bishop/Archbishop in the case of Diocesan-owned schools or a Provincial in the case of Congregation-sponsored schools, as per Canon Law. This hierarchical structure highlights the significance of their positions and the need for effective leadership to guide them. The director in particular has a very crucial role. As the “Director of the Work” in Jesuit terminology, or simply the President in other Catholic high schools, much of the responsibility falls on your shoulders. Your leadership is pivotal in directing the efforts and energies of the board members towards the greater good of the school community. The board members, often unpaid volunteers in the nonprofit world, require careful nurturing and guidance.

Enriching the Contributions

Acknowledging the invaluable contributions of board members is essential, even if they are not financially compensated. One effective way to do so is by enriching their understanding of their personal beliefs. For Diocesan-owned schools, this might involve deepening their connection to the school's patron, while for Congregation-sponsored schools it entails delving into the charism of the Congregation. A well-informed board is more likely to make informed decisions that align with the school's mission.

If you're a Catholic high school President, or aspiring to become one, consider incorporating “Mission Moments” into the beginning of each board meeting. These moments provide a valuable opportunity to connect board members with the school's core values and faith-based mission. By grounding their work in the school's spiritual foundation, you can enhance the board's commitment to the institution's well-being.

Strengthening Bonds Beyond the Boardroom

Building strong relationships outside formal board meetings is equally important. Inviting board members' family members to join in board-level events on feast days or Church Holy Days not only strengthens the school's sense of community, but also shows appreciation for the sacrifices these individuals make by attending evening meetings and board retreats. It's about creating a more extended family within the school where everyone feels a deep connection to the institution and its mission. These moments of togetherness go beyond the boardroom and instill a sense of belonging. Such gestures foster community and also enhance the board's commitment to the school's shared goals, ensuring that everyone is working in harmony to provide the best possible education and faith-based experience for our students.

In your role as President, your guidance and direction are instrumental in elevating the school's board members to their highest potential. The collaborative effort between the President and the board is what ensures the school's success and continued growth. By focusing on these key aspects of board leadership, you can foster a harmonious and dedicated board that works in alignment with the school's mission, contributing to the enrichment of the entire Catholic high school community.

Mike Truesdell is a Senior Consultant with our Catholic Schools Practice and also works on consulting projects with schools. From senior leadership positions in both education and business, Mike has successfully invigorated strategic planning, guided fundraising and financing, as well as implemented both governance board and senior organizational restructuring.

Before joining CS&A, Mike served as the President and CEO of Holy Cross High School (NY), President and CEO of St. John’s Jesuit High School & Academy (OH), and President and CEO of Cardinal Newman High School (CA).

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