When I was hired as a first-year teacher, I was excited and nervous. Why? Unlike my colleagues, my undergraduate degree was not in education. Additionally, I entered education as my second career after retiring from the military.

When I showed up for my first day, I was informed I needed to attend the New Teacher Orientation. The purpose of the three-day training was to onboard all teachers new to the district.

So the next day, I headed to the training building to begin my orientation. I was excited to start my new career until I entered the auditorium. As I looked around, I realized I was much older than most of the fresh young faces in the auditorium, which made me nervous.

The next three days were a whirlwind of activities, including classroom management and procedures and administrative responsibilities. We also received several state-mandated training.

One of the state-mandated training was ethics. Rule 6A-10.081, Florida Administrative Code, Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida, outlined every educator’s ethical principles.

Our district trainer informed us that we are held to a higher standard because we work with students as educators. Over the next three hours, we covered the state statutes, different scenarios, and how to report violations.

As I listened to the presentation, I was reminded of the ethics training I received as a new 2nd Lieutenant attending Officer Basic Course. Our instructors reminded us that we were expected to lead by example as leaders.

Our behavior, as officers, had to be above reproach. We have the privilege to lead soldiers; therefore, we must be ethical leaders. As they closed the training, we were told to never put ourselves in a position where our integrity could be questioned.

Like military leaders, educational leaders must also be ethical leaders. So what is ethical leadership? According to Western Governors University, ethical leadership is “leadership demonstrating and promoting normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relations.”

For educational leaders, the goal is to promote equitable access and opportunity to education resources for every student, regardless of their situation or background. Educational leaders are responsible for the well-being and success of each student. Therefore, we must create an environment for student success.

As an educational leader, I work every day to create an ethical climate that embodies values, norms, behaviors, and attitudes built on respect, openness, and fairness.

“Leading with positive ethical values builds trust and brings out the best in people, which brings out the best in the organization, which leads to great results.”

-Linda Fisher Thornton

So, why is ethical leadership important in education? Because our students, faculties, and staff deserve nothing less.


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  • Great article, Kim, as always. You can substitute business, coaching, scouting, and just plain living for education.

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    About the author

    I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.