Date of Award


Access Restriction

Campus Access only Dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Mary K. McCullough

Second Advisor

Kristen R. Anguiano

Third Advisor

Neil Quinly


Up until the 1950s, Catholic school principals were mainly priests, sisters, and brothers who were well grounded in theology, scripture, catechesis, and the Catholic social teachings they received during their formation. Conversely, lay principals who currently staff most Catholic high schools may not have this same Catholic formational training that helped to form the religious mission of schools in earlier years. Hence, this study was developed to investigate current Catholic school leadership models and the way principals' perceptions of leadership may impact the religious missions of Catholic schools. Additionally, the factor of generational diversity may contribute to differences in principal's perceptions of leadership. Thus, the purpose of this study is to investigate how current lay principals from two generational cohorts perceive their roles as leaders and how such perceptions impact the religious mission of their schools. To accomplish this investigation, the researcher employed three elements of the Catholic school leadership framework designated by the United States Catholic Conference (USCC), including educational, managerial, and spiritual leadership. These concepts constitute the framework through which this study examined the principals' perceptions of leadership in Catholic high schools. To collect the data and answer the research questions, this study utilized a qualitative methodology consisting of document analysis, observations, and interviews. To conduct the study, six principals from two generations were selected from Catholic high schools in a large diocese on the West Coast of the United States. Based on the research results, differences were discovered between the generational cohort known as the Baby Boomers and those known as the Xers, where Baby Boomers exhibited more future-focused perspectives and Xers demonstrated a strong focus on values. Baby Boomers also connected the religious mission of the school to the charisma of the founding order or congregation of their school, while Xers relied exclusively on the identity of the diocese. However, despite these generational differences, the study results show that the current principals have not only maintained and preserved the religious mission to a new level of forming peer Christian leadership among students and teachers.