What can we learn about leadership from the Patron Saint of Educators?

Note: This article has also appeared in the May edition of the Catholic Cemetery Magazine (Volume 57, Number 5).

By Drs. Michael Cherry, Lesley Page, Sheila Boysen and Keith Lavine

During the School of Leadership & Management at the Catholic Cemetery Conference, we ask participants to reflect on leaders they have worked with that have been inspiring and motivating. As we dialogue about the characteristics of these leaders, we often hear the following proclamation, “I learned so much from them.” For us, that word ‘learning’ is where we see an essential theme of leaders as teachers. This theme is particularly apparent to us, because we teach at Lewis University a Catholic institution sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers were founded by Saint John Baptist De La Salle, the patron saint of educators.

Given this connection between leading and teaching, what can we learn about leadership from the patron saint of educators? Fortunately, De La Salle provided us the ’12 Virtues of a Good Teacher’ which can, potentially, provide guidance. The 12 Virtues are listed below and we encourage you to change words such as ‘teacher, classroom and student’ to ‘leader, organization and employee.’ With a few changes in word choice, we may discover new and inspiring ways to lead.

Gravity (Seriousness)

  • Teachers earn respect by acting with dignity. They cultivate an assured and calming presence.


  • The classroom atmosphere should normally be harmonious and quiet, leading to more effective teaching. The teacher will not talk too much.


  • We are human. We make mistakes. We therefore never abuse our powers and instead make pupils feel respected.


  • Teachers use their common sense, understanding when they need to do and what they need to avoid when dealing with children.


  • The teacher’s knowledge and experience is applied with sound judgment. Wisdom may take time to acquire.


  • The teacher who can keep cool, composed and even-tempered will be a better educator.

 Reserve (Self-Control)

  • De La Salle wants teachers to control themselves and show restraint in the face of annoyance.


  • Firmness and authority is tempered with kindness and courtesy such that the teachers is always approachable.


  • The LaSallian teacher is dedicated and committed whether it be in the class preparation, correcting work, encouraging effort, supervising or coaching.


  • The teacher is to be observant and discerning to promote values and prevent damage and danger. A caring teacher is vigilant.


  • The teacher, knowing each pupil is a child of God, will confide them to God’s protection while doing everything possible to prepare them for life.


  • This puts service before personal convenience. De La Salle wants teachers to be unselfish in their giving, always available and approachable whether in or out of the classroom.

As part of your ongoing development as a leader, we leave you with the following questions:

  • What virtue do you want to adopt (and practice) to enhance your leadership?
  • What does it mean to develop the “whole person”?
  • How can you lead your team as a “teacher”?

 Helpful Resources:

12 Virtues text:


12 Virtues PDF:




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