Tapping the Shoulders of Future Catholic School Administrators

Written by Laura MacDonald, Director of Professional Learning, NCEA, [email protected]

“Have you ever thought about working in Catholic education? We’d love to have you here,” the principal mentioned. Caught off guard, the individual just laughed!

Despite her position on the school advisory committee, regular volunteering with the students of the school and love for staying back for morning prayer when dropping her daughters off, she had never really considered returning to teaching in a Catholic setting. She had left the classroom for public administration and solidified it when she donated all her teaching supplies to the school after they had been sitting in the garage for four years.

When sharing the conversation later with her husband, they both chuckled, especially considering the Catholic high school tuition payments they were soon to endure.

But the principal’s words lingered in her thoughts: “We’d love to have you here.”

There are countless stories of leaders who pursued their paths because someone took the time to recognize something in them…perhaps your story is one of them.

According to the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, Second Edition, Standard 5.3 and Standard 6.3, administrators have a responsibility to “ensure…continuity and sustainability through leadership successions,” and to oversee the development of personnel, recruitment, and professional growth of their staff (NSBECS 2023).

So, how do we inspire others to take on leadership roles? Here are three approaches to help shoulder the responsibility of nurturing future leaders.

1. Showcase the positive aspects of leadership to make it an attractive and compelling choice.

There are days when principals find themselves in complete disarray. When teachers remark, “I don’t envy you” or express relief at not having to deal with the challenges administrators face, it becomes evident that adjustments are needed. Instead of dwelling on complaints or emphasizing what is going wrong, principals should proactively seek solutions. Effectively communicating the strengths and virtues of leadership is not only crucial for fostering a constructive work environment but also for inspiring and motivating others to strive for excellence.

2. Take time to acknowledge when you see someone with leadership potential.

Recognize skills, initiative and positive influence.

“Have you ever thought of going into administration?”

“You have so much leadership potential the way you _______.”

“Thank you for assisting with that behavior incident today; you are a natural with _______.”

“I appreciate your willingness to step up and lead your colleagues in such a positive way. “

3. Nurture leadership potential and help build confidence in future leaders.*

Offer opportunities for growth through small leadership tasks and projects. Encourage aspiring administrators to actively pursue professional development and network with other leaders. These endeavors will not only enhance their current roles but also lay the groundwork for successful leadership in the future.

After weeks of discernment and a family meeting, the decision was reached; she was given one year to explore Catholic education. Almost two decades have passed since she, or rather, I, changed my path. I am grateful for the gentle hand that tapped my shoulder.

Let’s actively recruit strong leaders in our schools. Regardless of whether your response is a chuckle, a shrug, or the occasional cold shoulder, keep tapping.

My Dear Lord:

Please use me to plant Your seeds of seeking future leaders in our Catholic schools. Please help me to lead by example, recognize strengths in others and nurture the confidence in those I serve. May I never tire of these responsibilities and may I always take great joy in serving You and building Your Kingdom in every way I can. 


Tap, you’re it!

NCEA presents a New and Aspiring Principal Leadership Series, a professional development series specifically crafted for new and aspiring principals with time to learn and network with other new and aspiring principals. To learn more and register, click this link