What is the Ministry Leadership Program (MLP)?
The Ministry Leadership Program is grounded in the wisdom of the Catholic tradition and is a fully integrated experience. The MLP formation process links professional expertise with contemporary business and organisational best practice, and explicitly engages the knowledge, expertise and experience of the participating leaders. While academic material is included, the focus is on developing the leader’s capacity to apply acquired knowledge to the issues, concerns and challenges they experience in their role.
3 Cs of MLP formation design
Formation is a creative, communal, and cumulative process that develops professionals into confident leaders of the Catholic health, aged care and social service ministries.
This leadership formation process emphasises creativity by asking participants to make connections between their own experiences both personally and as leaders, and the mission and values of the ministries entrusted to them. They are also challenged to articulate Catholic identity and creatively integrate its core concerns into the specific challenges of their organisational life and its mission.
Although guideposts have been set up along this path of integration, there is always a need for new insights and initiatives. Formation entails both studying the maps of others and trailblazing new territory.
This leadership formation process takes place in community. Although each individual is responsible to engage with the program, the context is a community of leaders who support and challenge one another. This emphasis both reflects Catholic Social Teaching that insists the human person is intrinsically social, and recognises that the delivery of our services is a collegial effort. It is within this community that participants will gain a personal sense of both belonging to, and leading of, Catholic health, aged care and social service ministries.
This leadership formation process is a gradual developmental process which requires considerable time, and is never complete. Although there may be moments of dramatic change, formation is a cumulative growth of interest and abilities. The ethos of the Catholic healthcare tradition is assimilated one piece at a time until eventually there is a sure grasp of what it means to continue the tradition. Within the formation process there is an emphasis on discipline and perseverance through the commitment to the formation activities over time.
The MLP addresses ten foundational concerns. These are the distinctive features of the Catholic health, aged care and social service traditions. They are areas in which the MLP seeks to strengthen the working knowledge of leaders and therefore enhance their leadership skills.
The MLP Triangle has been adapted from the Ministry Leadership Centre’s reflective practice model known as the Triangle. The three points of the triangle are Catholic tradition, cultural information and individual and communal experience. The MLP Triangle provides a unity to the program that holds the ten foundational concerns together and is a learning method that when applied to each foundational concern gives order and direction to the whole. The MLP Triangle is used to analyse each session and provides leaders with a process that they can adapt in their organisational discernment and decision-making processes.
The Catholic Tradition sets the agenda. It names the ten foundational concerns and provides the theological perspectives about why these concerns are important; ethical guidelines for addressing them; and insights into their implications.
Cultural Information informs the agenda. It includes relevant information from the social sciences, cultural analyses, contemporary philosophies, and current organisational protocols and processes.
Individual and Communal Experience evaluates the agenda. Leaders use their experience to assess the material from the Catholic tradition and the cultural information and determine what they want the future experience to be.
Other program features
Each participant is also encouraged to identify a dialogue partner of their choice. This is an opportunity for a confidential conversation to talk through the MLP process and content, especially ways it is challenging and stretching them. Participating organisations can adapt this expectation so that it aligns with their particular culture and structures.
Dialogue conversations give participants an opportunity to:
⦁ Increase their awareness of the implications of the content for them in their personal life and in the life of the organisation; and
⦁ Articulate what they are learning and to gain greater clarity about how to integrate what they are learning into their leadership.
It has been found that this relationship has benefited not only the participant but also the dialogue partner and the organisation.
Dialogue partners need to have a balance of strengths, tailored to the particular participant’s needs and place on the formation journey. They need to be:
⦁ Steeped with the Catholic tradition
⦁ Skilled in active listening and reflection
⦁ Have an appreciation of the value of formation
⦁ Have an interest in contributing to the development of leaders
⦁ Available for regular conversations, usually once a month for 30-60 minutes, over the two years of the program.
Two key objectives of the MLP program are to strengthen participants’ capacity to articulate and integrate of the ten foundational concerns into their leadership practice. The Action Feedback process assists leaders to articulate the knowledge conveyed at the sessions and relate it to their working situations. It provides a practical opportunity to integrate this knowledge into their personal and organisational life. Organisations also significantly benefit from the direct and immediate transfer of offsite learning to relevant work teams.
All participants complete and report on Action Feedback between sessions via the MLP Learning Management System (LMS). Learnings are then shared and discussed at the start of each new session.
MLP Formation Model
The model below illustrates the MLP formation pedagogy and process demonstrating how the offsite (in-session) and onsite (between session) components interact.
The model below illustrates the MLP formation pedagogy and process.
Evaluation of the MLP is a high priority. Formation must be beneficial both personally, professionally and for the organisation. Effective formation is not simply leadership development; it must translate into both improved leadership behaviours and organisational outcomes for the mission.
Evaluation of intentional formation programs and experience such as the MLP is essential to demonstrate that the formation programs and activities:
⦁ Strengthen the capacity of leaders to lead a Catholic ministry so that organisations are an authentic witness to Catholic ethos and this is evident in service delivery, relationships and culture;
⦁ Facilitate intended behavioural and organisational outcomes;
⦁ Are continually improving and meeting the needs of participants and organisations; and
⦁ Provide a return on investment.
The evaluation strategy has been developed in consultation with a range of experts and stakeholders. As there is no ‘one size fits all’ evaluation strategy for leadership formation, the MLP evaluation process will be refined and developed over each cohort. The MLP evaluation will evaluate the programs process and impact.
It is an expectation that participants and their organisations will participate in the MLP evaluation activities.