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The Ethical Line

The Ethical Line
10 Leadership Strategies for Effective Decision Making

First Edition

Foreword by Douglas Fisher

August 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


This is a must read for any school leader. We face ethical decisions every day. This book provides practical and realistic tools to help every leader who is faced with challenging situations and decisions throughout their school year. The author does a superb job of aligning the leaders heart, head, and ethics in the decision-making process of school leaders. The students and staff reap the benefits from a leader inspired by this book.

Holly Leach, Superintendent, Everett, WA
Holly Leach, Superintendent, Everett, WA

This book provides useful strategies and structures, drawn from the field, to assist leaders at all levels better understand the complexities if ethical leadership.

Ray Boyd, Principal; Beechboro, Western Australia
Ray Boyd, Principal; Beechboro, Western Australia

“The daily decisions of school leaders are shaped by a set of personal and professional ethics that influence every interaction we have with students, colleagues, and families. Toni Faddis provides clear and coherent guidelines for helping leaders locate and adhere to a set of ethical standards, and interrogate one’s own biases. The outcome is an assurance that all decisions, large and small, are grounded in an ethical frame.”

Nancy Frey
San Diego State University

“An innovative and thoughtful approach to addressing real-life ethical concerns of educational practitioners. With its 10 leadership strategies, The Ethical Line is a must-read for all educators. Kudos to Dr. Faddis for this important contribution to the field.”

Jacqueline Stefkovich, JD
Pennsylvania State University

“Dr. Faddis skillfully captures the very essence of what leaders at all levels of the organization must do to solve complex issues in which there are no easy solutions. In a time where integrity and ethical leadership is paramount when faced with solving tough issues, Dr. Faddis provides hope and proven strategies to keep leaders from crossing the ethical line.”

David Lorden

“I have come to know and rely on Toni Faddis as an effective equity-driven school leader. I have every confidence that those who read this book will come to the same conclusion. More importantly, the book presents 10 ethically driven strategies to help us become the school leaders that our children, families, educators, and communities deserve.”

Ian Pumpian
San Diego State University

“Toni Faddis provides a vital work for our time. Schooling is not less complex, it is more complex by the day. In The Ethical Line, we are reminded that schools are ‘people places’ and only ethical leaders can build the kind of community necessary for each student to thrive and communities to reach their full potential together.”

Bradley Portin
University of Washington–Bothell

“In today’s diverse educational systems, leading through an ethical lens is more important than ever. In The Ethical Line, Dr. Faddis presents thoughtful, practical strategies for navigating the moral and ethical challenges educators face each day.”

Janice Cook

“As an administrator, being able to have a tool that supports the conversation around ethics makes a strong impact on our school culture. This book allows everyone in the school setting to have common language and understanding of what an ethical school looks and feels like. This book supports the growth of any leader and school community when dealing with difficult situations.”

Dominique Smith

“Today’s leadership preparation programs aim to create leaders who strive to take personal responsibility for providing the environment that produce empowered, engaged, inspired, and successful learners. In thinking about principal preparation programs, The Ethical Line is the reading that will push your candidates to achieve just this by thinking deeply and reflecting upon who they are and what type of leader they will be once they enter the ranks of school leadership. Dr. Faddis’s easy-to-read, practitioner-friendly text provides activities that enhance classroom discussion and complement any program committed to equity-driven leadership and ethical decision making. I highly recommend integrating this important book into your program.”

Lori Rhodes
California State University, Sonoma

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ISBN: 9781544337883

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