Category Archives: decision making

To Lead is Not To Follow: A Reflection on Ethical Leaders and Faith Leaders


imagesAn ethical leader. Does this phrase refer to someone in leadership and shows ethical behaviour OR someone who shows ethical behaviour and therefore is leading. Does this phrase always refer to a person in a leadership position appointed to them?

In this post I refer to the latter, an appointed person whose decision making effects others, specifically a school.

An ethical leader does not attain this title lightly.  To gain such a title means that at some point decisions were had to be made that effected other people and which caused conflict between the decisions of the heart and decisions of the mind. An ethical leader is one who remains courageous when faced with these such decisions. To lead is not to follow. To lead is to collect all relevant decision making “matter”, physically and mentally, and align them with their own values and the values and expectations of the school they represent. One school in my local area has a motto based on compassion. If this is one part of the “formula” for the school’s values then the leaders ethical decisions must take this strongly into consideration when making decisions for the entire school community. Their role is to represent the values of the school they lead.

But at what stage does a person’s personal values come into play?  Do they occur simultaneously to those of school values at the time of contemplating the scenario and making the decision? And what happens when their personal values override those of the school they represent? Does the choice always remain personal or is it now strongly influenced by the values of others, the school and the governing body of the school.

Being part of a faith community adds another dimension to the discussion. When faith leadership influences the conscience of the school leader it can quite often coloured by admirable elements of dedication to faith, honesty, integrity, justice, equality and fairness. But these qualities do not always serve the best interest of everyone involved and therefore having to make an ethical faith based decision can be confronting. Making an ethical decision, affecting more than one person, results in something being unfair for at least one of them. For if it was a decision which had no emotional or logical thoughts then the ethical dilemma may not exist. And if it was classed as ethical then it may have been difficult and therefore the result effective on at least one party.

As discussed above, being an ethical leader is not a title easily given. But what an ethical leader allows is a conviction in them from those they lead, that the decision making process is in the best interests of the school and all the stakeholders have been taken into consideration. Consideration does not mean, however, a favourable result.The students’ education is the ultimate scope of the decision making process. Arguably, I would say that their education is the capstone of the decision making process. If an ethical leader, a faith based ethical leader can reach the capstone having their conscience clear and able to justify their decisions then the title “ethical leader” is validated.



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