Countries around the world spend billions of dollars on education every year. In the US alone, each child at the K-12 level is allocated a little over $16,000 annually to make sure that they are learning, covering curriculums that impart the skills they need to survive as adults, contribute positively to the economy, and become future leaders and innovators.
The education system aims to mold young children into the best that they can be. Every educator is tasked with ensuring that their charges acquire the skills that they will need as adults. However, that is not all. Educators also aim to turn out ethical and moral young people because these are the fundamental underpinnings of any society.
It doesn’t matter how well-educated someone is – if they do not have the necessary ethics to participate positively in the workplace and society, and are not morally upright and dependable, they will not be able to achieve much with what they learn.
Educators are vital in imparting ethics to young learners, and for them to do this, they have to be ethical leaders. Leaders, by definition, have to set an example to those they lead, and the role that educators play in ethics and morality in young people cannot be overemphasized.
How to qualify as a true leader
To promote ethical leadership, educators should live exemplary lives. They must conduct themselves in such a way that their learners look up to them and want to copy what they see.
For those who are contemplating a career in education, this is a topic that is widely discussed in many courses. If you enroll in the online Doctorate in Leadership at Spalding University, for example, some of the topics covered include systems theory and leadership, leading innovative and creative change within the community and in organizations, research methodology and problem-solving, and ethical leadership.
The ethical leadership module helps students to get a global understanding of leadership as an ethical construct, and they learn how cultural contradictions influence society and leadership, especially in America. The course focuses on mindful and legal decision-making that is compliant and meets set regulations and the customs of society.
Rather than exploring leadership as the role of a single individual, the course looks at how different professionals within the education system can come together to provide the sort of leadership that is required to turn out students who are prepared to meet the demands of society within any given cultural context.
Before enrolling in such a course, students need to understand what educators can do to promote ethical leadership in their institutions. How can they ensure that each member of the faculty and all concerned stakeholders abide by a moral and ethical code?
Leading by example
School leaders must be prepared to be role models – however, it is a little more complicated than that. To lead by example, the educator must know what to do at all times, do it well, and make sure that they achieve outcomes that are admired by those they lead.
It isn’t about being successful in all decision-making. On the contrary, many exemplary school leaders will tell you that they fail from time to time. However, from every failure, there is a lesson, not just for them but also for their learners.
Leading by example requires that leaders in education know what is expected of them by the school district and the education system in general, and also fulfill student expectations while meeting the needs of every learner.
Good school leaders place a key emphasis on the equitable distribution of resources, making sure that each child has the resources they need to learn. They also make sure that teachers are competent and well-equipped, and that they know what is expected of them at all times.
They keep an eye on all the other workers in the school to ensure that every member of staff has the good of the learner in mind, and that they are well-disciplined and follow the rules.
They encourage openness, transparency and honesty by exhibiting these qualities themselves, and they ensure that all who are under their leadership are treated fairly.
Establishing clear ethical standards
Ethical leaders don’t leave people guessing as to what they ought to do. They spell it out so that all who are under their charge understand what is right and what is wrong.
An ethical leader will ensure that the faculty knows what is expected of them every day in all their interactions with learners, school staff and stakeholders. They have clear guidelines as to what actions should be taken in many different scenarios, and because teachers have a map to guide them, they make fewer mistakes.
A good educational leader also develops school rules so that every student knows how they should behave, and what is acceptable and what isn’t. Therefore, when a student is faced with a certain situation, they have a roadmap to guide them, even if it is something as simple as letting a teacher know what they are dealing with.
They will also develop a code of conduct for auxiliary school staff such as janitors, kitchen workers and others who provide vital services to the school.
One commonly asked question regarding the development of guidelines is how they can be enforced.
Leading by example is a good way to ensure that others do what is right. If an educational leader is ethical, fair and moral, then those they lead will want to do the same.
Enforcement also requires a keen eye so that the leader knows when things are going wrong, and they must not hesitate to take corrective action when it is needed.
Many leaders use a mix of coercion and persuasion to make sure that those they lead toe the line. The carrot-and-stick approach means that students, faculty and everyone else understands that there are consequences for certain actions.
They are also liberal with praise, and those who do well get the credit for their work so that they can stay motivated.
They have an emphasis on ongoing professional development
Most teachers and other school staff have one or more qualifications, but as we have seen in recent years, educators must continually learn if they are to continue providing for the needs of learners. A good school leader places great emphasis on professional development, and they encourage all under their purview to learn something new that is relevant to their field regularly.
To keep up, many teachers find that they have to get second or even third degrees. Those who do not want to enroll in degree courses have the option to take shorter courses that last a few weeks or months.
Everyone within the faculty is encouraged to attend conferences and seminars so that they can learn the latest about their industry.
Smart school leaders encourage those they lead to continually develop themselves, because the more knowledge they have, the better educators they become. They organize courses, seminars and conferences for the faculty and even look for funds to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to develop themselves.
Educational leaders ensure that while teachers are properly trained in their particular subjects, they also get training in other areas that make them well-rounded. They encourage them to pursue professional qualifications in areas such as communication, leadership, ethics, community development and other fields that make them better at what they do.
When the time comes for promotion, additional qualifications are taken into account, and those who continually develop themselves stand a better chance of climbing the career ladder and assuming more responsibilities.
They encourage open communication
Open communication is one of the most desirable leadership traits. Good educational leaders understand the value of feedback, and they encourage it from all who are willing to give it.
They keep an open-door policy and don’t penalize people for their ideas, instead encouraging them to speak freely and express how they feel or what they think about different issues. A good school leader lets the faculty know that their door is always open, and anyone who has a problem, a complaint, or positive or negative feedback can talk to them at any time.
These leaders are the same with the students, because they understand that if they get feedback from learners, they can get ahead of problems before they occur and they can better provide what students need to learn.
They also receive feedback from auxiliary staff, and it is just as important as that from faculty and students. These employees know what is happening in different parts of the institution and can provide opinions that can help improve the institution.
They integrate ethical discussions into the curriculum
A good educational leader understands that the classroom is a great place to discuss ethics and morality, and as they design curriculums for different classes, they include lessons where they can have open exchanges and in-depth discussions.
The lessons vary from class to class, but they must be incorporated into curriculums for all learners.
At the lower levels, children and teachers can talk about basic tenets such as the value of honesty and fairness and doing the right thing whether the child is supervised or not.
As learners grow older, the topics become more complex and they can pursue aspects such as the value of family, what role they ought to play in society, how they treat those who are less fortunate, justice and cooperation, and even religion and the role it plays in their lives.
By the time learners get to university or community college, the topics they cover are even more complex, and they are designed to help them cope when they finally qualify and begin working, start families and become productive members of their communities.
They establish an ethics committee
Ethics committees help school leaders to develop a code of conduct for all within the school, and they also discuss and resolve ethical matters that may arise.
An ethical committee should be composed of those who understand the value of ethics and morals in an educational context, and they should be professionals who lead by example.
They don’t all have to be drawn from the school – to ensure a diversity of ideas, the principal can have one or two members who are outsiders but who have a stake in the school’s performance.
They celebrate ethical behavior
Leadership is all about motivation, and good leaders understand that if they want to promote ethical behavior, they must celebrate it when it happens.
If someone within the school makes the right decision despite facing difficult circumstances, it is important to acknowledge their strength of will and encourage others to copy their example.
Even the smallest things can be celebrated. Students can be celebrated for taking up a good cause, and teachers for putting in extra time to make sure that their students are properly prepared for examinations.
Where can you learn about ethics in leadership?
Many education courses include this topic, but anyone who feels that they need more training can look for a good online course from an accredited university.
Online courses are preferred by many because they are flexible and take a shorter time to complete. These courses are also cheaper because they eliminate a lot of the costs that are associated with brick-and-mortar classrooms.
However, those who choose them must be prepared to be fully committed to their studies, complete all tests and assignments, and participate in group discussions as required. It is also important to check that the institution is accredited, which means that its courses have been assessed for quality.
Ethics and leadership go hand in hand
Ethics are a vital part of leadership, and more so in schools where leaders are tasked with shaping young lives. They prepare learners to deal with the world and overcome challenges that they meet along the way, all the time ensuring that they make sound decisions.
School leaders can do more than attend courses on ethics – they can lead by example and be the sort of people who others want to emulate.