The centrality of ethical leadership

Ehrich, Lisa C., Harris, Jessica, Klenowski, Valentina, Smeed, Judy L., & Spina, Nerida (2015) The centrality of ethical leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(2), pp. 197-214.

View at publisher



The central argument in this paper is that ethical school leadership is imperative in a context of increasing performance-driven accountability. The purpose of this paper is to focus on school principals’ perceptions of how they understand ethical leadership and how they lead the ethical use of data.


This study utilises semi-structured interviews with six state school principals (one primary and six secondary) to explore their perceptions of ethical leadership practices; and how they balance current competing accountabilities in a context of performance-driven accountability.


There were four key findings. First, principals used data to inform and direct their practices and their conversations with teachers. Second, while ethics was a central consideration in how principals’ led, practising in an ethical manner was identified as complex and challenging in the current context. Third, Starratt’s (1996) ethical framework proved to be relevant for interpreting principals’ practices. Finally, all of the principals referred to dilemmas they faced as a result of competing priorities and all used a variety of strategies to deal with these dilemmas.


While there is a small body of research that explores school leaders’ understandings of ethical tensions and dilemmas, there is little research that has focused on school leaders’ understandings of the ethical use of data. This study, then, contributes to this area as it provides a discussion on school principals’ leadership practices in the current climate driven by data use.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

146 since deposited on 26 Mar 2015
68 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 82806
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.1108/JEA-10-2013-0110
ISSN: 0957-8234
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Emerald Group Publishing
Copyright Statement: This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Deposited On: 26 Mar 2015 00:43
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2016 07:04

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page