“Values-driven leadership implies a conscious commitment by leaders at all levels (of education) to lead with their values and create a culture that optimises performance, ethical practice, social contribution and environmental impact.”

According to the internet, the average person makes about 35 000 daily decisions. The quantity of decisions is not important, but the quality is. Our decision-making is based on our VALUES, which serve as a rudder to steer us through the stormy seas of day-to-day life, safely past bribes, enticement, temptation, cheating, corruption… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u399XmkjeXo

This means that the values-driven leader will need to know her-/himself very well. Know your:

  • Purpose: This is our reason for being, which serves to guide all our thoughts and actions. For the values-driven leader, it should be the purpose to leave the world better than you found it, to lead the school community to perform optimally whilst following the ethical leader’s example.
  • Values: these are the things we care about most deeply, such as family, knowledge, fairness and integrity. The leader’s values will inspire them to use their position not for power but for empowerment.
  • Principles: these are the beliefs and norms that serve as the line that may not be crossed by others when interacting with us.

For example, treat others how you want to be treated; honesty is the best policy; keep small promises…

Ethics is not about being better than someone else; it’s about being the best we can be.

For this reason, the values-driven leader will never stray from their values to subscribe to the deadly sins identified by Mahatma Gandhi. Leaders guilty of the following sins are willing to sacrifice the greater good of the school community for short-term selfish needs:

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Religion without sacrifice

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Politics without principles

Prof Jonathan Jansen adds another perspective on the above by concluding: “Ethics is not simply the absence of wrongdoing; it is also the failure to speak out in the face of evil.” (Ethics in Education, Chapter 8: NACF Report)

The question is: Do we, as educational leaders, speak out when there is wrongdoing?

  • An educational leader cannot be neutral regarding values or outcomes: they underpin the organisational behaviour of the school.
  • While each school and each person in a school will have a different value system, certain values are enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution.
  • These values serve as a moral compass for all people, protecting our rights and affirming the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

As leaders in education, we are bound by the SACE Code of Ethics. But if purpose, principles, and values drive us and we understand the consequences of “bad” decisions, we do not need a Code of Ethics or any tick list to regulate our actions.

Albert Einstein reminds: “Try first to be a man of value; success will follow.”

Ethics in Education, Chapter 8: NACF Report