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The Ethical Line

The Ethical Line
10 Leadership Strategies for Effective Decision Making

First Edition

Foreword by Douglas Fisher

June 2019 | 168 pages | Corwin

Be the leader your school community needs

The responsibilities of school leaders are increasingly complex. In this book, you will find a problem-solving model to help you think through morally complex situations. These steps will enable you to arrive at innovative solutions that are ethical, logical, culturally sensitive, and in the best interests of students. 

Packed with real-life vignettes, mental exercises, reflections, checklists, and other templates, these strategies will help you

  • Understand how ethical standards and core values drive your leadership choices
  • Approach problems through a lens of equity and care for the students entrusted to you
  • Recognize when urgent action is called for and when it’s better to slow down in order to thoroughly consider your actions and the potential consequences of those actions

As a leader, you face difficult challenges every day. This book will help ensure that the decisions you make are right for your students—and for the whole community.


Foreword by Douglas Fisher
About the Author
The Ethical Line

Temptations Lurk Everywhere

Tough Choices

How This Book Can Help

Features You Will Find

Chapter 1: Know Thyself
Strategy #1: Identify and Model Your Core Values

The New Normal

Your Ethical Line

Right vs. Right Situations

When Moral Compasses Falter

Strategy #2: Be Curiously Introspective

Find Kindred Spirits

Practice Self-Care

Express Gratitude

Build Resilience

Take a Cognitive Time-Out

Pause to Regroup

Calm Mental Chatter

Dare to Imagine

Chapter 2: Examine Your Community’s Values
Strategy #3: Listen Generously

Characteristics of Outstanding Listeners

Practice Empathy

Strategy #4: Create an Inclusive School Climate

Promote Emotional Well-Being

Engender Teamwork

Facilitate Collaborative Leadership

Recognize the Signs of an Unhealthy School Climate

Stimulate a Healthy School Climate

Foster Collective Efficacy

Strategy #5: Discover Your Community’s Hopes and Dreams

Explore Community Assets and Examine Your Leadership Privilege

Take the Pulse of Your Community Regularly

Empathic Interviewing

Strategy #6: Unify Around a Collective Vision

Which Values Guide Your Organization?

Making Sense of Norms and Codes of Conduct

Study Colleagues’ Behavior

Chapter 3: Adhere to Ethical and Legal Parameters
Professional Standards for Educational Leaders

Strategy #7: Consider Moral and Legal Consequences of Decisions

PSEL Standard 2: Ethics and Professional Norms

Lead With Moral Courage

A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions

The Seven Steps of Ethical Decision Making

Strategy #8: Ensure Equitable Processes and Outcomes

PSEL Standard 3: Advocate for All


Chapter 4: Promote an Ethical School Culture
Strategy #9: Walk the Talk

Be an Architect of Equity

Model Innovation and Empathy

Provide Clear Rationale for Decisions

Characteristics of Constructive Dialogue

Strategy #10: Become a Strategic Influencer

Defining Moments

Mental Preparation

Facilitate Win–Win Situations

Never Stop Learning and Growing

Implementation Steps


“Dr. Faddis has written an exemplar piece to support and guide school leaders in developing and utilizing an ethical lens when leading diverse schools. The Ethical Line illustrates the need for ethical leadership in a way that is conceivable and achievable, through the implementation of 10 key strategies. This is an essential read for all current and future PreK–12 leaders.”

Sarah Graham
California State University

An interesting text tackling ethical issues in education.

Dr Louise Campbell
School of Education & Social Work, Dundee University
March 27, 2020
Key features

Three professional frameworks of educational standards are referenced in Chapter 1 and are included in the appendices:

Appendix A:  Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSELs):  United States
Appendix B:  Australian Professional Standard for Principals and the Leadership Profiles

Appendix C:  National Professional Qualification for Headship:  United Kingdom


All schools exist within their own distinct community. Their local beliefs, culture, history, values, and vision influence the ways access and opportunities are provided to all students.  The role of the school principal has evolved into an instructional leader who both manages the daily operations of a school as well as leads the community towards academic excellence.  The congruence of professional standards from 3 different continents demonstrates the recognition of shifting school communities at local and international levels. 


The challenges faced by school leaders may differ from site to site, but the specific, ethical, and mindful ways problems are approached and effectively solved are universal.  Understanding and utilizing standards enable any leader to consider and contribute to a 21st Century, multicultural global society.  Utilizing a problem-solving model that outlines the steps of thinking through uncertain situations will enable leaders to arrive at innovative solutions that are ethical, logical, culturally sensitive, and in the best interests of the students they are charged to serve. 

San Diego State ‘Roadshows: With support of the Wallace Foundation, the Educational Leadership Department at San Diego State is currently engaging in a redesign of the Administrative Services Credential program.  One of the core courses of the program is EDL 655, which was redesigned from a focus on teamwork to ethical preparation.  The tenets of ethical leadership are no longer isolated and are now woven throughout the other six core courses of our program.  SDSU’s program redesign includes instruction related to the new California Administrator Performance Assessments (CalAPA’s) that are required before licensure.  Our program redesign has been recognized by California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state-wide licensing body, as a model for other credentialing institutions in California.  We are currently presenting and sharing our course sequence, syllabi, and all materials to the other universities in California.  These ‘roadshows’ occur three times per year; higher education faculty from each university attends, hears our presentation, and is given access to all materials in our program.


Further, the Stuart Foundation is supporting this statewide educational leadership program redesign by selecting 3 to 5 universities in California for SDSU faculty to partner with and lead their redesign efforts.  I am a part of these processes and envision sharing my EDL 655 syllabus and required reading with higher ed faculties.  If I were to publish with Corwin, I would have numerous, excellent opportunities to personally share the book with the higher education faculty who teach courses on ethical and equity-driven leadership as well as the other core courses that are necessary for aspiring principals to fulfill the requirements for an Administrative Credential in California.

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ISBN: 9781544337883

For large school/district orders, volume discounts, availability and shipping times contact customer service at 800-233-9936

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