Ethical Practices in Educational Leadership Part 2

Leadership and ethics must go hand-in-hand. The Bible provides us with principles which guide us in the practice of ethical leadership.

Sustainable Leadership April 5, 2021

Ethics and leadership cannot be separated. In Part 1 of this post, we discussed the definitions of ethics and of leadership and outlined four biblical principles presented in God’s word. Here we will examine the remaining principles.

Praise in public and rebuke in secret

This is a very popular saying in educational circles. This was exemplified by Jesus when they brought a woman caught in adultery to him for judgement. Most likely, everyone expected stern judgement on that woman who was caught on the wrong side of the Law. But Jesus’ reaction surprised everyone. Instead of open rebuke, He started to write on the ground. When those present peeped and saw what Christ was writing, they started walking away one by one. Christ was writing the sins of each person on the ground, not on their faces or backs. What a great lesson for leaders! Leaders should learn to rebuke their subordinates, and even students, privately. Even if truth has to be said, it has to be spoken in love. By speaking the truth in love, we uphold the law of God.

According to Lautzenheiser (2014) educators (and perhaps leaders) can determine which behaviors to appropriately recognize and reward. It’s not that every good deed has to be publicized, but leaders may use their judgement to acknowledge or affirm desirable or outstandingly good behaviour as a way of motivating the doer. If it’s done properly, it does not engender a spirit of jealousy and competition, rather may motivate others to do good too. In other words, the principle of praise in public works as positive reinforcement.

Lautzenheiser (2014) posits that when we choose to criticize in private and praise in public, we are opting to water the flowers while hoeing the weeds, a guaranteed technique for a superior classroom environment. This may not only apply to the classroom situation but also to general Christian leadership.


The  word integrity comes from the root integer, which implies wholeness. In other words, the leader’s wholeness or completeness of genuineness reflects his integrity. Integrity is described as a quality of being honest in all aspects of life. This means being honest and truthful even when one is alone and no one is watching. The book of Psalms 15:2-3 summarizes this very well as follows: ”O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; Notice that it says, ‘he who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend.’” An effective Christian leader will always speak the truth even to his or her own hurt. This is true integrity.


One of the key aspects of ethics of Christian Leadership is ability to exercise justice at all times. However, justice does not necessarily mean being ruthless or merciless. Actually, in Christian leadership these go hand in hand, as pointed out in the book of Micah, “ He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. A Christian leader should ever demonstrate the ability to use both justice and mercy. This is what God expects of each of us, especially as Christian leaders (Swindol & Green, 2020). Justice also implies that when responsibilities, resources, and rewards or punishments are distributed to employees, the leader tries by all means to avoid partiality. The rules and criteria that are used and how they are applied say a great deal about whether the leader is concerned about justice and how he or she approaches issues of fairness (Northouse, 2013). It may be difficult at times, but that is the way to go. This is the world’s greatest need: A need for ethical leaders. This is well expressed by White, as follows: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”

In conclusion, leadership in educational institutions can be effective if it is guided by sound ethical standards. Among these are Love for God and love for mankind, Praise in public and rebuke in secret principle, Integrity and Justice.


Constance Chifamba

Constance is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Humanities and in the Faculty of Graduate studies, Research and Development at Solusi University. She is an Educationist who is passionate about research and ensuring best pedagogical practices. She has taught in High school and lectured at university level for more than 15 years.

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