Ethical Decision-Making in Educational Leadership

  • Eileen S. JohnsonEmail author
Living reference work entry


Ethical decision-making is an inherent and daily part of a school leader’s experience. Often times, however, university-based leadership preparation programs are lacking in the ability to prepare school leaders to effectively grapple with ethical decision-making. Furthermore, day-to-day ethical decision-making may be guided by but are ultimately removed from professional codes of ethics that are articulated and codified by various professional organizations. This chapter considers ethical decision-making from three broad categories: deontological or duty-based, teleological or consequences-based, and axiological or virtue ethics perspectives. In addition, several forms of justice are considered that range from a basic understanding of procedural justice that focuses on the implementation of rules and laws to the broadest sense of the word that grapples with institutionalized and societal forms of oppression and privilege that perpetuate inequities and advantage through often unquestioned norms and conventions. Finally, ethical checkpoints are presented as a way of structuring ethical decision-making with which school leaders are often faced. Ethical decision-making is a complex, ongoing process that must be navigated, on a daily basis, by school leaders. Having a good understanding of various ethical theories, as well as different forms of justice, allows school leaders to appropriately examine and defend decisions that are made to foster and maintain a sense of justice, compassion, and care within the environment over which they lead. This chapter presents an overview of ethical decision-making paradigms and processes that are a necessary consideration for school leaders.


Act deontology Act utilitarianism Axiology Categorial imperative Character Constitutional rights Deontological ethics Ethics of care Ethics of consequences Eudaimonia Justice Moral objectivism Realism Rule deontology Rule utilitarianism Situational ethics Social justice Teleological ethics Utilitarianism VIrtue ethics Zero tolerance policies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organizational LeadershipOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Aletha M. Harven
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Child DevelopmentCalifornia State University, StanislausTurlockUSA

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