How Good People Make Tough
“Moral Rudders and Superintendent Values”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not
where he stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
What should superintendent’s do?
While the issues vary, the core challenge is
the same—a tough ethical decision, where
values are in play and both sides have
powerful moral arguments in their favor.
Core Values that Anchor Your Decisions
What are your core values that anchor your
decisions as a leader?
Arlene Ackerman: “No one ever said that
being a leader would be easy. To know the
right thing is far easier than to act on it.”
Ethics is Ethics!
John Porter: “The most important ability of a
school superintendent is to be able to separate, in
terms of ethics, one’s personal preferences from the
organizational objectives. Ethics does not come in
two parts—a professional part and a private part.
What you do privately has got to be able to stand the
What does this mean to you?
Right v. Wrong--to select an option that one
clearly knows is wrong reflects on one’s
lack of ethical clarity and moral courage
Right v. Right--clear moral authority for
each option but the two are mutually
Right v. Right Dilemma Paradigms
Truth v. loyalty
Individual v. community
Short-term v. long-term
Justice v. mercy
Truth v. loyalty--where issues of personal
honestly or integrity come in conflict with
responsibility, allegiance and promise-keeping
Individual v. community--in which the interests
of the individual are lined up against those of a
Short-term v. long-term--where the real and
important concerns of the present are pitted
against foresight and investment for the future
Justice v. mercy--in which fairness and an equal
application of the rules appear to be at odds with
the demands of empathy and compassion
Decision Making Principles
Ends-based--the greatest good for the greatest
Rules-based--seeks to identify and apply a
universal standard that, if obeyed, would make
the world the kind of place we all want to live in
Care-based--derives from the concept of the
“Golden Rule”; it is a principle of reciprocity, best
seen by imagining a reversal of roles with others
Assignment: Your Scenarios
(right v. right)Describe the background or
context for scenario
Clarify how the scenario “fit” one
the dilemma types
Describe your decision-making
process for handling the dilemma
Which resolution principle did you
What did you learn from this
With group at your table, each
share a scenario involving a
Following discussion, as time
permits, a few will be shared with
Individual v. Community
Truth v. Loyalty
Short Term v. Long Term
Justice v. Mercy
“Maxims of Ethical Leadership” (Sharratt)
1. You are what you do.
2. The means are the ends.
3. Consistency is important.
4. Promises are the lifeblood of integrity.
5. All accountability starts with personal accountability.
6. Effective decision-making requires deliberation.
7. Competence and trust must be developed.
8. The truth matters.
9. Getting it right means listening well to others.
10. Humility is essential for ethical leadership.