The info about the LCWR situation often mentions the term “leadership team”. Exactly what is it, when did it start and why.
Many congregations aren’t led by a single superior anymore. They have “leadership teams” that lead them. These seem to be small groups of 3-8 women in many cases, from the examples I can find online.
Generally speaking, congregations appear to be into “consensus” and “process management” in a big way, this kind of leadership would be the logical consequence of that.
I’m not sure when this came into vogue, but I suspect it’s been this way for a while because it seems pretty uniform and accepted now among the congregations. Most of them are doing it this way.
I also suspect that this is an outgrowth of a combination of the instruction “to return to the sources” at Vatican II, and the fact that the women’s congregations, as a general rule, had very weak or absent sources. Many of them did not have women founders, and many of them had charisms that depended only on the circumstances of their first apostolates, their internal culture and their habit. You see, many of these congregations were founded to teach in a certain school or work in a certain hospital, which may long ago have closed. There are so many of these congregations and they’re so alike, that the charism, or difference between them, may have centered around the habit, or their geographical location, or something as superficial as how they request a pencil or turn a corner in the hall.
One of the things that many Catholics don’t know is that the sisters adopted semi-monastic habits and manners to appeal to the laity and reinforce their authority in the 19th century when they were doing so much practical work. Many of the congregations weren’t founded with those habits. So when they went back after Vatican II, they dropped those habits, which was fine in itself. But if the charism WAS the habit, then they had no charism!
So some congregations turned to things like transactional analysis and client centered therapy in attempts to define a charism, which is basically a reason for being. You can read a good example of this here: ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/COULSON.TXT
William Coulson was a disciple of Carl Rogers. This team of psychologists worked with many (about 200) religious orders and other organizations in this time period.
This kind of influence is one possible reason why some congregations seem averse to management by authority and prefer consensus management as a leadership technique. To put it phenomenologically, “they may not know what it is they’re in, but they’re all in it together” and some variant of this may have ended up as their reason for being, their corporately adopted purpose for existing as a congregation.