In the context of the present century, when the entire course of life is changing much faster than ever, rapidly increasing body of knowledge in every walk of life has made tinier issues look magnified. Today, what is considered as a most important requisite of a plan or strategy may not have even been noticed in the past days. As such, education is one domain where challenges of the present time of diversity are felt more than in any other area. Thus educational management and leadership is one area that catches a good deal of scholarly attention.
When it comes to leadership, ethical leadership takes the lead because today leadership in schools is something highly challenging due to the diverse environment of cultural diversity and so on. The present paper carefully examines the phenomenon of ethical leadership, and then makes empirical analysis as how it can be employed usefully in schools for better outcomes. For this purpose, the present paper takes into account extensive research with regard to ethical leadership in schools.
Today, the need for exploring the phenomenon of ethical leadership in an academic environment has become a necessity especially for those working at such positions: principals and teachers. The present writer is a teacher and considers that the study of ethical leadership is highly important for professional growth and substantial results with regard to training of pupils being taught at any level of schools. This study, henceforth, is useful not only for professional teachers, but it also encompasses grounds for other related people in the field. It will also be worthwhile for the common reader.
Problem Statement On the face value, the phenomenon of ethical leadership remains a complex area which is in need of exploration for its better understanding and implication in practical ways in a school or college, etc. For example, what is known from the observable behaviors of leaders like principals and teachers may not be sufficient to mark any solid statement with regard to the definition and implication of ethical leadership. However, this is another grey area to point out that observable behaviors have not been fully investigated in this regard.
Different practices of leadership, say across the educational setting of the United States of America, exist and need to be interpreted for a comprehensive exploration of ethics and the use of ethics to lead. As such it is important to address both these areas. From the explicit definition of explanation of what ethical leadership is to how it can be best practiced to positively influence an academic environment is at the core of the problem. A number of researchers have already delved into this area; however, more digging is needed.
The present paper looks at the issues from both the sides: from its explanation to its implementation in best possible conditions. Literature Review Available literature on ethical leadership yields a good deal of information. The Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Craig, p. 256, 2000) states the following explanation for ethics: “What is ethics? First, the systems of value and custom instantiated in the lives of particular groups of human beings are described as the ethics of these groups”. This definition tells us that ethical leadership is about practices that leaders exercise with regard to pupils studying in their institutions.
It means not merely controlling the physical actions of the learners but influencing their values and customs in a positive way. To Campbell (2000), “Ethics are standards by which one should act based on values. Values are core beliefs such as duty, honor, and integrity that motivate attitudes and actions” (p. 23). As such, ethical leadership is something that aims at addressing the issues of attitudes and strikes morally the attitudes of workers and students in such a manner which positively provokes high level of motivation. According to Covrig, D. M. 2000), ethical leadership “is the practice of effective ethical decision making and leadership which responds to, preserves and clarifies the organization’s core values. Conflict and conflict resolution suggest a healthy moral administrative process” (p. 40). If we look at this definition, we will notice that preserving and clarifying an organization’s core values is one important factor that keeps the ethical leadership going. As such one simply observable point here is that an organization, say a school, will only adhere to its core values only when these values are well defined and logged.
If the values are not well defined, no effort will result in preserving any value because, according to the present writer, there will not be any values worth mentioning. This will, in turn, give no positive feedback for the practice of ethical leadership. Sergiovanni (1992) defines ethics in the following manner: When purpose, social contract, and local school autonomy become the basis of schooling, two important things happen. The school is transformed from an organisation to a covenantal community, and the basis of authority changes from an emphasis on bureaucratic and psychological authority to moral authority (p. 102).
Foster (1986) pointed out the serious implication and significance of ethics in educational management as he penned that, “Each administrative decision carries with it a restructuring of human life: that is why administration at its heart is the resolution of moral dilemmas” (p. 33). This definition again informs us of the importance of dealing with values and moral code of students instead of controlling them outwardly so that true basis of character can be fostered. The ethical leadership also addresses the role played by faculty and teachers. This is a switch-over from traditional views about leadership because they are simply top-down.
They consider influence in terms of a mechanical process. Hashem (1997) observes that “The conventional leadership concepts and practices which rely on top-down philosophy, decisiveness, unemotional, and total control have been challenged by the transformational concept and more empowering practices” (p. 94). When it comes to ethical leadership, ‘what is to be achieved? ’ is the question often asked by the critical eyes. The purpose of ethical leadership is to seed in students the confidence to build or construct knowledge genuinely by addressing their natural demands.
Hence ethical leadership is constructivist in approach. According to Henson (2004) by this approach, students construct knowledge through the process in which an interaction between their perception about their knowledge and new knowledge and ideas and experiences that come to their way of learning. This way the students practice highest possible model of ethical learning which is possible only if leaders practice ethical code to train their students. Initial research worth-noticing in this area links as back to the past as the 1980s. Forty empirically conducted studies were reviewed by Reid et al. 2004). They investigated the impact of school heads on different aspects of students’ functioning and teacher’s activities.
With regard to the leadership impact on students, they found out positive attitudes of students to school, better mathematical and reading skills, and absenteeism + vandalism were reduced. With regard to the impact of school leaders on teachers, Reid at el. found out that teachers’ satisfaction for job increased; they used innovative techniques in classroom. Additionally, seven studies were conducted by Majestic et al. 2004). These studies also affirm that leadership by principals in schools positively impacted students’ basic learning skills and teachers’ attitude toward job satisfaction and employment of innovation by them in classroom settings. However, the researchers also came up with four additional types of impacts. Andrews et al. (2002) also undertook a study in which they analyzed scores gained by students on standardized tests to examine the influence of school leaders. Teachers rated their principals on a band of strong, average, and weak leaders.
The findings presented high correlations between what was achieved and how strong ethical leadership of these leaders was in both mathematical and reading skills. Four major areas were listed in this study, which were directly or indirectly influential for the strength of ethical leadership. These were: (i) mobilization of human and material capital by principals to meet school’s targets; (ii) effective communication with regard to negotiating the set-goals; (iii) their active involvement in school’s teaching practices; and (iv) the time span that these principals spent to make their presence known at school.
These four areas are very influential if the leaders are at the top of the grid, that is, if they are trying their level best to perform better in these four areas. As far as loyalty of teachers with regard to their teaching practices and leadership influence down to students, the principals who had the ability to address the moral issues of both the faculty and students were successful in attaining higher level of loyalty from their teachers (Spillane, 2004).
As such, a number of school administrations have come to realize the importance of ethical leadership as being the powerful tool that can yield higher results in students not only with regard to their learning but also to the higher order thinking and moral strength of these students as prospective individual citizens. Now the focus should be how effectively these ethical leaders affect the course of learning of their students in connection with the above as well as in the present context of changing cultures, cultural assimilations, self-concept in the fast-paced world, sense of community service, and so forth.
This should be our future schools (Hargreaves 2004 8-13). In this very regard, Hart (2004) points out to the importance of understanding and addressing the inside-school culture and its impact on the knowledge-construction and ethical character of the learners. According to him, future research should focus on the elements as to what extent the culture of a school helps train students ethical healthy and how much contribution can be made on the side of the principals and teachers (pp. 117-28).
With this all review of literature review, what can be noticed is that ethical leadership is not a simple phenomenon which addresses only one or two areas of school leadership and the training of the learners in a school. Substantially, ethical leadership is about building better moral values for character building and higher order thinking and learning. The process of ethical leadership is not simply top-down or bottom-up (which in contrast to traditional views of leadership); in fact, it is a combination of a number of processes taking place at a number of places in an organization like a school.
These processes are present anywhere in the faculty, administrative staff, and students themselves. Thus, ethical leadership is the outcome of efforts put by all the major players in a school context. There is no doubt that such an approach to understanding ethical leadership and its implementation is the need of the present as well as future time so that higher order thinking and learning can be obtained making the students ethically strong.