Document Type


First Faculty Advisor

Roger Anderson

Second Faculty Advisor

Jim Segovis


leadership; organizations; Level 5 leadership; culture; Catholic Church


Bryant University

Rights Management



The Catholic Church is currently in a crisis, yet this is not the first time and likely will not be the last. In the past, men and women of virtue, now saints, have arisen to successfully lead the Church through such crises. Hence, the principal question of this thesis is whether a leadership analysis of these saints, from the perspective of contemporary management theory, can help us understand their effectiveness and provide insights that would be useful for modern Church leaders. To satisfactorily answer this question, it would help to find a period in history like ours, namely the Reformation. From here, three steps are necessary. First, review the historical circumstances of the Reformation – arguably the greatest challenge in Church history. Second, examine the contributions of three saints (St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri) who were among the most prominent Church leaders in this crisis. Third, apply the lens of contemporary leadership theory to better understand what made these individuals successful and to suggest lessons that contemporary Church leaders might learn. Consistent with modern leadership theory, it was found that these three saints exhibited a paradoxical combination of immense humility and intense determination. This enabled them to develop cultures within their religious orders that could motivate often heroic effort from their members and enkindle vigorous loyalty amongst Church laity. Their leadership demonstrated that, to go forward, the Church must, in a sense, go backward; that the key to reform is to return to the perennial truths and practices of the Church. This thesis demonstrates that much can be learned by studying great leaders of the past from the perspective of contemporary leadership theory. In particular, the analysis provided insight that may be of value to contemporary Church leaders as they confront the crisis the Church is facing today.