Leadership, Power, and Ethics

In education there are many positions that provide authority and power over others.  Some effective leaders understand that the position does not automatically determine that leadership is present.  In fact, the opportunity to serve in a powerful position is only the canvas that an educator artist has the opportunity to demonstrate true leadership skills.  Leadership and power do not always go hand in hand, but when they do effective leaders appropriately apply power through ethical discernment.

Leadership and Power

Leadership cannot be measured by power alone.  Today, leadership is often confused with powerful people and often evaluated on effectiveness.  However, power or those that have power is not synonymous with leadership.  Moreover, effectiveness of leadership cannot be calculated by looking at how much power an individual has.  Leaders have power but not all leaders use power and not all people that have power are leaders.  Gardner (1990) agrees by stating that, “…leadership and power are not the same thing” (p55).  Before we give powerful people the respect of leadership let’s be sure that we understand how leadership should be measured.

Leadership and Ethics

Leadership effectiveness can be measured by a combination of power and ethics.  Some powerful people are effective.  Not all successful individuals are also effective leaders because, effectiveness is not an accurate evaluation of good leadership.  Leaders must also have a moral influence that keeps them accountable to the greater good.  Gardner (1990) says it this way, “We say that we want effective leadership; but Hitler was effective” (p.67).  Leaders must use power and ethics correctly to help them govern in an appropriate way.

If you hold a position that provides power and authority over others, please consider the ethics associated with caring and representing the individuals that you serve.  Leaders consider circumstances and individual differences before applying power.  Remember those that use power may not be acting like an effective leader.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Gardner, J. W. (1993). On leadership: With a preface to the paperback edition. New York [etc.: The Free Press.


One thought on “Leadership, Power, and Ethics

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  1. Well said Nathan.
    When I was in the maufacturing world there are several assum,ed leaders determined by their title. Forman assume the title signifies that they lead. Union Stewards also fell the same way as the Forman and will compete for the “leader” badge. But in reality, when I wanted to learn something or get a message out the employees I would go to the person they all went to for advice and answers. It was almost effective as “Trump’s Twitter Finger”


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