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Leading in tough times: Keeping ethics at the heart of your practice

Ethical behaviour – Refers to how everyone within an organisation ensures that all practices, decisions and actions are right or moral and in keeping with their culture and values. As a leader, you may find yourself pulled between what you believe is right, what the students need, what other members of the senior leadership team expect, what school or college policy dictates and what the Government or law requires.

Author/s: Mark Wright, Jackie Christie and Peter Rushton.


This document was originally published in 2017 by the Association of Managers in Education (AMiE), the leadership section of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). Following the amalgamation of the ATL and the National Union of Teachers, AMiE now forms part of the National Education Union.

The National Education Union (NEU) re-published this document in September 2021, in order to ensure that it continues to be available to members of the NEU’s Leadership section and others who will find it useful. 

This booklet sets out to illustrate the importance of ethical leadership. By following this approach you can grow as a leader and develop your influence. It is primarily aimed at those with leadership or management responsibilities. However, it is also relevant to those aspiring to senior roles.

Ethical Leadership is built on respect for ethical beliefs and values and the dignity and rights of others. It is therefore related closely to concepts such as trust, honesty, consideration, empathy and fairness. Being ethical is being fair. Being fair means understanding other people’s perspectives. 

The more you appreciate other people’s issues, the easier it is to act in an ethical manner. This booklet examines the many facets of ethical leadership, with an emphasis on both individual leaders and their organisations acting in a transparent and trustworthy way. It includes case studies, scenarios, tasks and reflective considerations. 

The booklet is divided into two parts. Part A thinking explores the issues and challenges facing education leaders. Part B doing looks at how leaders can practice ethically when dealing with a wide range of stakeholders and multiple complex issues.

About the authors

 Mark Wright was formerly director of AMiE. 

Jackie Christie was a senior leader with a wealth of experience in education and currently works for Promoting Excellence. 

Peter Rushton, leadership consultant at Promoting Excellence, is an accredited leadership trainer and executive coach and a former college principal.

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