When educators become leaders, there is a lot more at stake than hiring good people, making sound budgetary decisions and finding better textbooks. Many well-trained and efficient administrators in school districts everywhere accomplish these tasks every day. They are good, competent leaders. However, leading with a strong value system and a sound basis of ethics in educational leadership makes the difference between a good leader and a great one.
Educational leaders set the tone. They must have both the ability and the passion to create a safe, collaborative and encouraging environment for all stakeholders. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to maintain high levels of ethical behavior and policy.
High Expectations in Educational Leadership
Conversations about ethics in educational leadership are often very theoretical, and it can be difficult for leaders in education to put those theories into practice. Since these leaders are usually high-profile public servants, responsible for training our future leaders, it is often the case that the ethics of educators are held to an even higher standard than the ethics of leaders in other professions. Although most who enter the education field do so with good intentions, they know that the professional bar is set high. They realize that the values and behavior of educators influence the values and behaviors of students. When exceptional teachers pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership, the issue of ethics is front and center. As future overseers of the education of future generations, potential leaders must work and interact with colleagues, students, families and communities with integrity and a strong moral compass.
Leaders in education are responsible for physical resources, a staff of educators and support personnel, and the education of future generations. They deal on a regular basis with facility maintenance, school employees and student behavior, and their reactions to these situations require a solid ethical foundation. Educational leaders understand that their day-to-day decisions profoundly affect a large audience. The effects may be far-reaching and long-lasting — and the world seems to be watching.
The ethical decisions of an educational leader go far beyond the daily challenges of school personnel, budgets and responses to local newspaper reports. A leader in education is also responsible for creating and maintaining a strong and ethical educational system. The policies and structure of any district may have been adopted with good intentions; however, it is the responsibility of the leaders to continuously review the structure of the system. The status quo of teacher evaluation, homework policies and textbook selection can and should be challenged.
Moreover, this continual state of review does not go on hold when new administrators are hired. Even educators who have just completed a Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree, and have accepted positions in a local school district, will hit the ground running. A new leader must become familiar with existing protocol and policies and immediately begin analyzing each one. Every element must focus on one goal: a strong and ethical educational system.
The complexities of leading a school district involve coordinating both individual and community success. The fundamental goal of every classroom is to provide the best education possible and give students the opportunity to flourish. However, every system has limited resources, time and budgets. Good leaders navigate carefully through the process of using resources, time and funds most effectively. What may seem like the obvious choice to one stakeholder may seem unfair or biased to another, so an ethical administrator steps back to consider the entire system. Making decisions that will most positively affect the individual and the community requires sound judgment. It also requires the willingness to reveal, discuss and resolve difficult issues and make difficult decisions when necessary.
A strong leader, when faced with these decisions, will return to the ultimate goal: a strong and ethical educational system. The decisions he or she makes will not always be popular, and leaders may struggle for unanimous support at first, but the compassionate leader with a track record of consistent ethical practices makes wise decisions that other educators will respect in the long run.
The Best-Prepared Leaders
There are many different schools of thought in the discussion of ethics and bureaucratic systems, and human frailties make ethics in educational leadership uniquely difficult. But it is the responsibility of every candidate seeking a master’s degree in educational leadership, every educator, and every leader to join the conversation and find common ground. Because school districts are facing difficult decisions about cultural and social responsibility — as well as the ever-changing world of educational policy — it is becoming increasingly important for new administrators to enter the field fully prepared to lead strong and ethical educational systems.
Learn more about the LSU online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.
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