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How can Leadership Capabilities impact Ethical Decision-Making?

In today’s interdependent and rapidly changing world, numerous challenges threaten our ability to create sustainable and principled societies. True leadership requires a compelling vision, the ability to inspire and hold close both the moral and ethical values interwoven into our lives (Greenfield & Ribbins, 1993).

Current literature (Ehrich, Harris, Klenowski, Smeed & Spina, 2015) identifies the heightened awareness of the ethical dimensions of educational leadership in a context of increasing performance driven accountability. The key challenges involve tensions between opposite value positions (Cranston, Ehrich, & Kimber, 2006) where leaders need to navigate the shades of grey, for example, common good versus individual rights; care versus rules; loyalty versus justice; and long-term versus short-term perspectives. (Duignan, 2006). 

The opposing value positions above, identify complexities leaders have when considering the perspective nuances of the situation. Consequently, the ethics involved are “a dynamic and continuing activity rather than an adherence to a system of moral codes and ... formal policy statements” (Niesche and Haase, 2012, p. 2). There is an acknowledgement that moral codes are important; however, this is balanced by the consideration of situational dynamics and context.

Ethical leaders appreciate that the world is interdependent. They make constant decisions that allow them to be resilient to pressures by holding on to the ethical behaviors required to advocate for student, teachers and parents. Through ethical behaviours and applying fairness in decision making we commit to providing students with a fair learning environment that promotes excellence for all people. 

With this frame of thought, I draw on my own capabilities to inform decision making process. These capabilities are skills, beliefs and capacities that are developed over the course of my life experience and are like seeds planted and shaped from my earliest discourses.

Dewey (1933) suggests that reflective thinking is the active, persistent and careful consideration of a belief, grounds that support that knowledge and the further conclusions to which that awareness leads. Likewise, intuitive connection is seeing the blind spots (Dyer, 2000) and working to address them before they become problematic. Procrastination can sabotage intuitive connection as I can allow myself to become sidetracked.

I view my professional commitment as the means that I mediate between my beliefs that bring about student learning and my professional goals. It ties closely to my philosophical conviction regarding lifelong learning and commitment to generating enthusiasm produced by an environment respectful to the student’s background. It also demonstrates an affinity to my school’s vision to have each person known and loved.

My capacity as a disruptive change agent to see the bigger picture and begin moving towards it as an early adopter is an example of strategic readiness (Fabry & Higgs, 1997). To revolutionise the complex system of education, “people need to be within the comfort zone of disruptiveness and momentum” (Breakspear, 2016), working like a domino effect, one small adaption leading to another one. As iterative change is applied ideas are clarified, incubated and amplified. In starting small, ideas create energy and success before a larger rollout. By engaging the collective expertise, solutions to the problems can be developed.

Ultimately, this small-incubated change in teacher leader practice is a variable that causes changes in student learning that move us forward to better learning outcomes. “If we want to do better things for students, we have to become the guinea pigs and immerse ourselves in new learning opportunities... We rarely create something different until we experience something different.” (Couros, 2015, p. 52)

Managerial expertise is a capacity that I am continuing to develop and is linked to my technical leadership discussion previously mentioned. Mentoring and coaching in this role has addressed some of these deficits; however, strategic planning and goal setting in this area will be a focus of the future.

Capable leaders are centrally concerned with making decisions that are aligned with their personal morals and organisational integrity. They make these as a means to improve outcomes for students and fulfill the organisational vision (Duignan, 2006). Leaders see themselves as learners (McGough, 2003) and as part of the overall knowledge-building learning community.  

Love to hear your thoughts.

Breakspear, S. (2016) Quote from the AISNSW Learning Leaders Professional Learning 21 January 2016, 99 York St Sydney.
Couros, G. (2015) The Innovator’s Mindset, Dave Burgess Consulting, San Diego.
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.
Dewey, J. (1933). A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. DC Heath.
Dinham, S. (2005). Principal leadership for outstanding educational outcomes. Journal of Educational Administration43(4), 338-356.
Dyer, K. M., & Carothers, J. (2000). The intuitive principal: A guide to leadership. Corwin Press.
Ehrich, L.C., Harris, J, Klenowski, V, Smeed, J.L., & Spina, N. (2015). The centrality of ethical leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(2), 197-214.
Fabry, D. L., & Higgs, J. R. (1997). Barriers to the effective use of technology in education: Current status. Journal of Educational Computing Research,17(4), 385-395.
Greenfield, T. and Ribbins, P. (eds.) (1993), Greenfield on Educational Administration: Towards a Humane Science, London, Routledge.
McGough, D. J. (2003). Leaders as learners: An inquiry into the formation and transformation of principals’ professional perspectives. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis25(4), 449-471.
Niesche, R., & Haase, M. (2012). Emotions and Ethics: A Foucauldian framework for becoming an ethical educator. Educational Philosophy and Theory44(3), 276-288.


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