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Saturday, 19 November 2016

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

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Importance of Ethical and Moral Values for Educational Leader.

When reviewing the literature, it became apparent that a school’s culture develops from its leadership while the culture of a school can also affect the development of its leadership. Effective schools are required to engage in deliberate, intentional and long-term strategic thinking to guide the direction in which it is moving, as well as culture building by its leaders. Strategic thinking helps to create and build a bright and bold the vision of the future. The culture is the setting within which the vision takes hold and in turn, the vision characterises the school's culture (Bass & Avolio, 1994).

Effective school leadership is a function of culture building (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990). Teamwork is an essential element for leadership to be truly released to lead in a visionary capacity. Without this capacity building teamwork where others were empowered to take on responsibilities, leaders became less effective to lead. They found that as the leader became the catalyst for change by investing in and inspiring their team they could transform into a flexible, adaptive, entrepreneurial, innovative and relational organisation (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990).

Within the diverse environment of a school, the business of decision-making has become so complex that it is almost impossible to make everyone happy. Collaboration, different from cooperation and coordination as participants collaborate around a shared vision, decisions are made in a balanced democratic process and something new is created as a result of the joint effort (Blanchard, Ripley & Parisi-Carew, 2015). This type of decision-making process is important as members of an inclusive learning community work together as equals to assist students to succeed (Friend & Cook, 1992). It allows for value adding, transparency and consultation in decision making. While common agreement within this learning community is the goal, ultimately a decision needs to be made based on tactical direction and strategic planning to lead both the culture of the organisation and the people within it (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990). Leadership is about making decisions and how these outwork, is impacted by the leader’s values, ethics and willingness to work through the conflicts (Begley & Johansson, 1998).

The leader’s ethics are the moral code and set of beliefs that shape the way they live, act and do life, it is the filter they use to decide what they will make and the world that they will create through their choices (Ross, 2013). “Values are the desirables that motivate individuals and collective groups to act in particular way to achieve a particular end” (Begley & Johansson, 1998 p. 339). Both ethics and values can be applied to larger organisations and determine what they will do and accept. This becomes an agreed code of conduct and set of beliefs that guides decisions. Without clarity and alignment, there is the potential for conflict of interest and ongoing tension.

Educational organisations that promote transformational leadership aligned with agreed code of conduct and collective set of beliefs frequently integrate creative insight, persistence and energy, intuition and sensitivity to the needs of others to draw on their skills and talents to speak into the vision (Sergiovanni, 2000). In doing so, they create buy-in and ownership, honouring what the stakeholders bring to the table to enhance the culture of an educational organisation. They generate a collaborative environment where connections between strategy, vision, culture, leadership and learning are coupled in consultation (Scott, Coates & Anderson, 2008). Leaders who draw on multiple perspectives to identify the areas that the organization will gain the greatest traction with the least amount of friction, giving the greatest successes. They also identify threats to success and ramifications from an educational, ethical and moral perspective and consider these impact the culture that is created.

Menzel (2012) suggests leadership that empowers conversations about the values and integrity of their organisation provide pathways to minimize the obstacles to ethics reform. He advocates understanding and willingness to act ethically and morally increases as the leader releases their myopia. As they begin to responsibly lead, they grasp the myriad of complexities, including conflicts of interest, appreciation of diversity, vision, tradition, competing agendas and how their decisions informed by these complexities impact the culture and the individuals within the educational organization.

Kem (2006) identifies that decision makers have an ethical responsibility accurately define and describe the problem before addressing possible solutions or determining the way forward. Through open dialogue leaders acknowledge the complexities of differing perspectives, minimizing the negative impact while gleaning the wisdom of others.

Menzel (2012) acknowledges historically, many leaders across industries, governments and organisations in getting the work done have failed to recognise the importance and impact of ethics. They lacked the awareness of or overlooked misconduct with relation to ethical problems, at all levels in an organisation because most work is done in an appropriate manner. He proposes that many of these leaders were not able see the consequences of the unethical conduct, often because they looked at the world through narrow, legalistic perspectives. As a result, emerging leaders are forced to become counter-cultural by introducing rules-based and values-based approaches to their own practice or adopting the unethical culture which has become the accepted norm.

School settings there may be highly nuanced relationships such as those that arise with psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers and other counterparts in a variety of other fields (Johnson, & Fauske, 2000, Cranston, Ehrich, & Kimber, 2006). These other occupations have established codes of professional ethics to guide practitioners as they traverse a broad range of grey areas and thick stories. Professionals are trained to discuss and contemplate these ambiguous situations as part of their preservice training and ongoing supervision. The isolation of education can work against teachers and leaders when faced with challenging ethical issues where there is no collective protocol or supervision on how to address them (Hutchings, 2009).

There is a growing body of research on the impact of ethical leadership on educators and schools in which they work. Explicit investigations have shown that leaders can proactively promote ethical behaviour and prevent unethical or corrupt behaviours in their organization (Starratt, 1991). Proactivity engenders trust and responsibility within the relationship between leadership and staff. Staff feel a sense of autonomy and that their work is of significance which leads to greater job performance and willingness to voice concerns in psychological safety to leadership.

Australia’s history has been fraught with leaders who seemingly lacked awareness of ethical dilemmas, for examples the White Australia policy, voting rights of Indigenous Australians, forced adoptions and the Stolen Generation (Wilkie, 1997). It would be remiss to state that education has been immune or in part reinforced the implications of this.

Therefore, as educational organisations become more proactive and aware of their responsibility to include (NSW Department of Education, 2016), care and cater for the diversity of students, staff and community members (Northedge, 2003) they have begun to develop codes of ethics, conduct and standards to guide teachers, educational leaders and the organisations themselves.

This is an acknowledgment that educators have a dual moral obligation as both values coaches and moral agents (Campbell, 2006; Lovat & McLeod, 2006). Codes of ethics and conduct endeavor to articulate shared professional values that represent the integrity of the profession. The intention is to provide some guidance for action around recognised issues and regulation which position teachers in sanctioned roles (Forster, 2012).

The ethics in education has much to do with access to equity and equality of resourcing for students despite gender, religion, cultural background, financial access, ability and location. All students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education. Equality is the leveling the of playing field and equity is the action to provide more for those who need it. How these learning needs are provided for are based on ethical and moral decisions the educational leaders and organisations make. Through practice, alignment with values and ethics, educators and leaders can diminish the mistruths and stereotypes, empower inclusivity and improve access to opportunities in transparent and accountable modes. This outcome is important as it impacts the lives of students, their families and the futures they will lead.

Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1994). Transformational leadership and organizational culture. The International Journal of Public Administration,17(3-4), 541-554.
Begley, P. T., & Johansson, O. (1998). The values of school administration: Preferences, ethics, and conflicts. Journal of School Leadership8, 399-422.
Blanchard, K. Ripley, J. & Parisi-Carew, E. (2015). Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Campbell, E. (2006). Ethical knowledge in teaching: A moral imperative of professionalism. Education Canada-Toronto, 46(4), 32.
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.
Forster, D. J. (2012). Codes of Ethics in Australian Education: Towards a National Perspective. Australian Journal of Teacher Education37(9), n9.
Friend, M. P., & Cook, L. (1992). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals. New York: Longman.
Hutchings, T. R. (2009). Teacher sexual misconduct with students: The role of teacher preparation programs as a prevention strategy. Northern Arizona University.
Johnson, B. L., & Fauske, J. R. (2000). Principals and the political economy of environmental enactment. Educational Administration Quarterly, 36(2), 159-185.
Kem, J. D. (2006). The use of the Ethical Triangle in Military Ethical Decision Making. Public Administration and Management 11 (1), 22-43.
Lovat, T., & McLeod, J. (2006). Fully professionalised teacher education: An Australian study in persistence. AsiaPacific Journal of Teacher Education, 34(3), 287-300.
Menzel, D. C. (2012). Ethics management for public administrators: Leading and building organizations of integrity. ME Sharpe.
Northedge, A. (2003). Rethinking teaching in the context of diversity. Teaching in higher education8(1), 17-32.
NSW Department of Education (2016). Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2016 – 2020
Ross, D. (2013). Foundations of ethics. Read Books Ltd.
Sashkin, M., & Sashkin, M. G. (1990). Leadership and Culture-Building in Schools: Quantitative and Qualitative Understandings.
Sergiovanni, T. J. (2000). The Lifeworld of Leadership: Creating Culture, Community, and Personal Meaning in Our Schools. The Jossey-Bass Education Series. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA
Scott, G., Coates, H., & Anderson, M. (2008). Learning leaders in times of change: Academic leadership capabilities for Australian higher education.
Starratt, R. J. (1991). Building an ethical school: A theory for practice in educational leadership. Educational administration quarterly27(2), 185-202.
Wilkie, M. (1997). Bringing them home: Report of the national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Leading Diversity and Ethics in Education

As society becomes more diverse, educators will require the ability to develop, foster and lead ethical and democratic educational contexts.

Australia is an ethnically diverse society. One in four Australian residents were born outside of Australia and have entered as a migrant or refugee. Australia in its present state is only young with many Australians being first or second generation Australians (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).

This wide variety of backgrounds, together with the culture of our nation’s original inhabitants the Indigenous Australians, have facilitated a fusion of ethos; one that idyllically empowers existence, acceptance and promotion of a culturally diversity, tradition, multigenerational relationship and respectful of differences and individual uniqueness (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).

The diversity of society has a dramatic impact on educational administrators, staff and student’s strengths, intellectual personality and productivity. Diversity in experience, age, culture, race, gender, physical ability, cognitive style, discipline and intellectual ability contribute to the richness and depth of the educational environment and offers students access to a scope of perspectives available in a dynamic knowledge building community.

At the ACEL Conference 2016, Kirk Zwangobani asked “Do leaders present a picture of the diversity of our communities or are they mono-cultural?” He went on to suggest that as we develop an attitude towards diversity which looks at the returns, it can prove to be a school’s asset in challenging dilemmas.

There is a vast and growing body of research providing evidence that a diversity within an educational setting is beneficial (Milem, 2003). It informs the development of a student by increasing their collaborative creativity, innovation, problem-solving and accepting relationships. However, diversity can bring its challenges, including frustration and challenge as stakeholders come from differing perspectives upon which they look at less than perfect dilemmas. These perspectives can be linked to unconscious assumptions, family of origin, religious, cultural or stylistic differences (Fine & Handelsman, 2010)

To counteract differences caused by diversity, a negotiated common understanding or standard is fundamental. In creating an atmosphere of value, care and respect participants are open to developing, fostering and leading ethical and democratic educational discussions where the maximum benefits from the diversity can be derived.

Fine, E., & Handelsman, J. (2010). Benefits and challenges of diversity in academic settings. Brochure prepared for the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI), University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Milem, J. F. (2003). The educational benefits of diversity: Evidence from multiple sectors. Compelling interest: Examining the evidence on racial dynamics in higher education, 126-169.
Wilkie, M. (1997). Bringing them home: Report of the national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Zwangobani, K. (2016) Addressing the impact of complex socio-cultural and political issues, such as multiculturalism and migration, on young people’s engagement with their education and community. A Fresh Perspective - Panel Discussion, Conference notes ACEL Conference 2016, Melbourne, 29 September 2016.

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