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Ethical Leadership and the Capacity to Navigate the Grey Areas

I believe as a teacher and a leader, I am a moral guide (Beavis, 2014). I am a bridge connecting the values and moral students come with to their knowledge and behavour. I am committed to leading and preparing well-informed, engaged, principled citizens who are reflective in their practice who think critically about their public and private choices and decisions that are made.

My belief is supported by theories related to psycho-philosophical identity that includes psychoanalytical, social cognitive and Erikson’s psychosocial development (Wright, Berns, Sigelman, Rider, De George-Walker, Kail & Cavanaugh, 2016). These theories highlight the internal complexities between personality, morality, perceived self and self-concept. Through an internalised and evolving memoir, integrating, reflecting and reconstructing the past and forming the future through the unity of purpose, investigation and personal agency can be drawn on to inform ethical decision making (McAdams & McLean, 2013).

It could be argued that I am predisposed to a set of attitudes and beliefs that could discriminate. Contemplating this, my belief has allowed me to be fluid and flexible in understanding and acceptance, while grounded and informed by relationship, social context and moral code (Fogel, 1993, Preston, 2015). This moral standpoint is therefore broader than just my faith.

As I respond and adapt in accordance to my professional values and ethics, I appreciate that I am faced with dilemmas. These has often drawn me into the pit of despair; however, through quandary, it has built resilience, the ability to empathise and the capacity to lead through these grey areas. Leadership is about guiding and impacting our own life and the lives of others. By growing through the challenges we become leaders more worthy to follow.

When professionals think about values, they think about what is important to them, by identifying their global and ethical duty of care, they empathise and reflect on how their actions will impact on another’s life experience, learning, welfare and access. They also recognize their generational impact a decision may make with regards to areas such as the environment, social justice and finances (Preston, 2007).  

Formal codes allow for consistency of practice despite personal differences and the ethical dilemma, allowing teachers and leaders to make complex decisions in the best interest of the school community (Cranston, et al., 2006).

In a context of increasing performance driven accountability, it is imperative to confirm ethical leadership within our educational organisations. Such an engagement creates an intellectual and emotional commitment between leaders and their followers that makes both parties equally responsible in the pursuit of common goals. Goleman (2016) calls for system awareness about future decisions. Through considering our own, others and systems value’s and desires we are reminded of what works best. This self-awareness and self-management are essential for educational leadership as leaders with adaptability achieve the greatest level of success in implementing ethical decisions.

This position of equality permits stakeholders to be democratic participants through the consultative approach to decision making. Consistency of practice based on this resolution allows teachers to make complex decisions despite the ethical dilemma.

The need for ethical leadership characterised by moral, ethical and professional dimensions that are likely to produce improvements in student learning and contribute to the life chances of all students. By demonstrating ethical leadership, we promote a high level of integrity that stimulates a sense of trustworthiness and encourages the community to accept and adopt the vision notwithstanding their differences in backgrounds and perspectives.

Through positive relationship and reciprocity of value, school communities can ethically and integrally influence societal change (Batty, 2016).

Batty, R. (2016). Making Changes in Spite (or because) of the Challenges. Conference notes ACEL Conference 2016, Melbourne, 28 September 2016.
Beavis, A. (2004). Why parents choose private or public schools
Cranston, N., Ehrich, L. C., & Kimber, M. (2006). Ethical dilemmas: the “bread and butter” of educational leaders' lives. Journal of Educational Administration44(2), 106-121.
Fogel, A. (1993). Developing through relationships: Origins of communication, self, and culture. University of Chicago Press.
Goldman, D. (2016). Focus and Emotional Intelligence in Education. Conference notes ACEL Conference 2016, Melbourne, 29 September 2016.  
McAdams, D. P., & McLean, K. C. (2013). Narrative identity. Current Directions in Psychological Science22(3), 233-238.
Preston, N. (2007). Understanding Ethics, 3rd ed. Federation Press, Sydney
Preston, N. (2015). Ethics with Or Without God: Christianity and Morality in the 21st Century. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Wright, A.C, Berns, R., Sigelman, C. K., Rider, E. A., De George-Walker, L., Kail, R.V. & Cavanaugh, J.C. (2016). HAS121: Human Development in Social Context: for University of Wollongong, 2nd ed, Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne, Victoria

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