Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Collegial Hierarchy: The Integration of Vertical and Shared Leadership at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota

Orlando Rivera
July 2012

This study addresses the gap in shared leadership literature regarding the integration of leadership as a role performed by an individual with the view of leadership as a social process. Most have approached leadership as a top-down (leader), bottom-up (follower), or lateral (shared) influence process. Western cenobitic (i.e., community-centered) monasticism describes leadership as a shared process that includes all community members in decision making. Through qualitative content analysis of the texts Rule of Saint Benedict (Rule or RB; Fry, 1981) and Handbook of Monastic Norms for the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict (2001) and interviews with sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, extensions to shared leadership are proposed that illuminate a cenobitic model of leadership. Hierarchy at Saint Benedict's Monastery (SBM) is a collegial, collaborative, and community discernment process that provides the opportunity for all the members of the community to have a voice in the decision making functions of the monastery. It is collegial in that all sisters are afforded equality of personhood as each is one in Christ (RB, 2); whether prioress or newly professed, the counsel of all is solicited and honored (RB, 3). It is collaborative through delegated authority and the interrelated governance model at SBM in the Handbook of Monastic Norms that expressly describes the role of each sister individually and corporately in the decision making process. Through qualitative interviews with the sisters of SBM, it was revealed that decision making is a community discernment process where the prioress, leadership team, council, chapter, committees, living groups, and individuals are provided multiple opportunities through information sharing and dialogue to reach a community consensus, with assistance from the Holy Spirit throughout, on an issue at hand until decided by the prioress and supported by the entire community.