A Phenomenological Study of Academic Leaders at the Marianist University in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: Charles Russo


Literature on the theories and practices of leadership reveals the roles of leaders in the growth of people and the development of their institutions. Authors such as Bennis and Nanus (1985), Burns (1995), Heifetz (1994), and Kouzes and Posner (2012) acknowledged the styles of leaders and the institutional culture as motivational factors for the commitment of individuals to the achievement of organizational missions and visions. Similarly, scholars including Cook (2013), Doohan (2007), Gardner (2006), and Ozar (2013) highlighted the place of academic leaders in the creation and development of the distinctive culture at Catholic schools and colleges.For more the 50 years, Marianist vowed religious brothers, sisters, and priests from Europe and North America chose countries in the north, center, east, and west of Africa as missionary lands for the expansion of the Marianist spirituality and tradition. These missionaries promoted the principles of Marianist spirituality in their apostolate as teachers and academic leaders, participating in the creation of a distinctive school culture shaped by the Marianist values of education. Today, African educators and academic leaders carry on the mission of sustaining this legacy of Marianist educational tradition. They strive to implement the principles of Marianist spirituality in their educational and leadership practices as a continuity of the work of their predecessors from the West. As such, these educators tend to rely on the western theories of educational leadership in their professional practices.Given the dominate western narratives on leadership that influence organizations worldwide and the absence of literature on the adaptation of Marianist education and leadership in African cultures, this qualitative research explored, through one-on-one interviews, the lived experiences of 13 educators and academic leaders at Chaminade Institute of Technology (CIT) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Informed by previous literature on the practice of leadership in diverse institutions, this study relied on a constructivist paradigm, a phenomenological methodology, and a semi-structured interview method in order to answer the leading research questions.Research participants, selected among administrators, faculty, and staff members at CIT, shared their educational and leadership experiences with the Marianist tradition based on four research questions. These questions aimed at exploring the values of Congolese and Marianist cultures as lived at CIT; the experiences of Marianist educators as related to the Congolese and Marianist values; the characteristics of Marianist leadership as responses to the needs and expectations of Congolese communities; and effective strategies for developing an appropriate Marianist leadership approach that would reflect the elements of Marianist spirituality and the positive values of Congolese cultures.The analysis, interpretation, and discussion of participants' narratives revealed the need to develop the campus culture of Marianist schools and colleges in a way that would help revitalize the African and Congolese traditional values. Exploring the transformational experiences of educators and academic leaders with Marianist spirituality at CIT, this study suggested an informed dialogue between African cultures and different theories of leadership for appropriate practices of Marianist leadership in African schools and colleges.Because African cultures and Marianist traditions hold the spirit of family and the role of women in the growth of individuals as their core values, the outcomes of this study suggest that educators and academic leaders in Marianist institutions should promote the development of campus-families. Relying on the images, symbols, and metaphors that are meaningful in African customs and considering the principles of Marianist administration, academic leaders in Marianist schools and colleges should foster, through exemplary lives, participative and collegial types of leadership in order to better prepare future generations of leaders to promote the values of Marianist spirituality.Therefore, this phenomenological study may be valuable for researchers who are looking at the experiences of educators and academic leaders in Marianist schools and colleges in Africa. The narratives of participants and the discussions of the findings can help academic leaders and educational practitioners in their quest for appropriate practices of Marianist leadership in their respective educational institutions. Finally, the design, methodology, and recommendations of this study might help scholars who wish to study the adaptation of leadership theories in diverse cultural settings.


Educational Leadership, African Studies, Religious Education, African Literature, Education, Education Philosophy, Teaching, Personal Relationships, Organizational Behavior, Campus culture, Catholic, Exemplary leader, Higher education, Africa, Leadership, Marianist leader, Marianist tradition, Marianist, Metaphor, Mission and identity, Phenomenology, Postcolonial, Servant leader, Symbol, Transformational leader

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Copyright © 2019, author