Examining the 21st Century Workforce Leaders’ Perceptions of Ethical Leadership and Organizational Health

Examining the 21st Century Workforce Leaders’ Perceptions of Ethical Leadership and Organizational Health

Gregory C. Petty (University of Tennessee, USA) and Jessica H. Chambers (University of Tennessee, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch022
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This study examines the relationships between instructors’ perceptions of their leaders’ integrity as measured by the Perceived Leadership Integrity Scale (PLIS), and the instructional systems organizational health. The sample involved six hundred fifty (650) instructors who were surveyed online. Pearson product correlations revealed statistically significant relationships between Perceived Leader Integrity (PLI) and the composite score of the seven Organizational Health Inventory for Schools (OHI-S) dimensions. Multiple regression analysis showed the OH Index to have a strong independent effect with the factors of consideration, institutional integrity, and academic emphasis. These findings will broaden understanding of the relationship between leadership and ethics, an important link to effectively managing instructors utilizing today’s technologies for classroom instruction.
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Leaders of the 21st Century will certainly need to master the technologies of their trade. As important as mastery of technology however, are the mastery of ethical leadership and the effects of leadership on organizational health (Petty & Farris, 2012; Petty & Hill, 2005). It is agreed by adult educators that the Internet, Web 2.0 technologies and other cutting edge expertise have changed the classroom. But how does the leader now effectively interface with teachers in an ethical and organizationally healthy way? Few studies have explored the role of ethics on leadership (Petty & Brewer, 2008).

Educational leaders have the responsibility of creating effective learning communities (Strike, 2007), ones that are built and sustained by ethical leadership (Glanz, 2006; Sergiovanni, 1992; Starratt, 2003). Ubben, Hughes, and Norris (2007) advised that a school leader in a learning community must structure an organization in a way that allows individuals to “continually [expand] their capabilities to shape their future—leaders are responsible for learning” (p. 25). Owings and Kaplan (2003) and Levy (2004) concurred. The quality of each individual within an organization determines the quality of the organization in its entirety (Strike). The ISLLC (CCSSO, 1996) and ELCC (NPBEA, 2002) standards suggested that school administrators must exemplify an ability to foster a school culture contributing to both student learning and staff growth. When students and faculty members are connected within a learning community, they view themselves as team members working together to attain moralistic objectives (Petty, Lim, Yoon, & Fontan, 2008; Strike, 1999).

Ethics is a part of every decision a leader must make, and the ethical integrity of a leader guides every choice (Northouse, 2004). Leithwood and Riehl (2003) emphasized that effective leaders must model appropriate actions and dispositions. Followers’ perceptions of their ethical integrity greatly affect the overall success of those leaders (Craig & Gustafson, 1998).

Sergiovanni (2007) suggested the culture within the school is what holds the organization together, and at the center of a positive culture is a cohesive vision and strong values. An ethical organization cannot function for long without an ethical leader (Aronson, 2001). Aronson described ethical leadership as not only fostering ethical behavior, but, more importantly, promoting effectiveness. Effective schools are healthy schools (Browne, 2002); they are organizations that avoid persistent, systemic ineffectiveness (Miles, 1965). Healthy schools have effective principals who are dynamic, supportive, and influential (Hoy & Tarter, 1997). The creation of healthy schools lies in the hands of the principals (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003; Miles, 2002; Sergiovanni, 2006).

This study examined the multiple aspects of organizational health and the effects leaders have on this important ethical concept. Although this is a single study, it involved more than 600 instructors in the Southeastern US and the implications are broad ranging with comprehensive leadership principles for today’s leaders of educational programs using instructional technologies.



Ciulla (1995) argued that researchers were spending too much time researching the definition of leadership; instead, they should have been determining what characteristics made a good leader. In a more recent article, Ciulla (2003) proposed that a good leader was not simply effective, but also morally good. Therefore, the question of concern posed from Ciulla’s earlier article became whether ethics was actually the difference between a good leader and an effective one.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Morale: The level of trust, enthusiasm, confidence, and collegiality experienced among teachers (Hoy, 1991).

Organizational Health: The level at which a school carries out its mission by creating an environment where administrators and teachers work together as a team to meet the needs of the students while coping successfully with negative outside forces (Hoy, 1991).

Secondary Personnel: Any faculty member serving students in grades 9-12 or grades 10-12, excluding alternative and vocational schools.

Perceived Leader Integrity: The level at which a leader acts in an ethical manner, as perceived by subordinates (Craig & Gustafson, 1998).

Academic Emphasis: The level at which teachers place importance on meeting the educational goals of all students (Hoy, Tarter, & Kottcamp, 1991).

Institutional Integrity: The level at which an organization (e.g., school) protects its members (e.g., teachers) from the external forces exerted within a school’s community (Hoy, 1991).

Ethical Leadership: Management and direction of a group or organization (e.g., school) in a manner going beyond mere concern for self to the greater concern for the happiness and welfare of the entire group (Northouse, 2004).

Consideration: The level at which a principal behaves in a supportive, collegial, and friendly manner (Hoy et al., 1991).

Principal Influence: The level at which the principal is able to impact decisions made by superiors (Hoy, 1991).

Resource Support: The level at which a school supplies teachers with materials they need for instructional purposes (Hoy, 1991).

Initiating Structure: The level at which the task and achievement-oriented behaviors are articulated among school administrators (Hoy et al., 1991).

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