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Strategies and Stories to Lead and Succeed

Answer to Yourself First

Remember the Queen in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty who says:  “Mirror - mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all.”

While the wicked queen in Snow White may have frequently pondered her appearance, we should be pondering our appearance of how others see us as being morally and ethically fair or in balance.  And while the last thing you are probably thinking about when you get up in the morning or go to bed at night is whether or not you are an example of a moral and ethical leader for all those who surround you on a daily basis, you should be.   Reflecting on moral and ethical decision-making starts with and ends with those daily rituals like brushing and flossing your teeth.  It begins and ends with that glance in the mirror to make sure you look “ok” and are ready to begin the day’s common routines.  However, next time you look in the mirror, take a closer look – not at the face you see but the face others see as your character.   Look through the mirror and ask yourself whether or not that face you see has the quality, caring character of all those looking at you on the other side.  Like a one-way mirror in a police station, if you were on the other side looking in, would you respect what you saw and, more importantly, would you view yourself as an example of ethical impeccability.

Introspection sometimes occurs best when you put a face on it.  The face of moral introspection has to be your own.  We all answer to ourselves first and in doing so have to live with that which we know to be true.  The daily pressures in the workforce can easily cause us to sway a bit from that which we know to be just and right.  Ultimately, like an out of body experience, we have to conclude whether or not our actions speak to the character that our profession warrants and requires.  We must be objective when we judge our own behaviors.  While we all have someone that holds us accountable for our ability to perform, absolute accountability in the realm of moral and ethical leadership lies with you- and only you.  Next time you look in the mirror ask yourself, “Am I who I should be?”   Answer candidly, reflect and then decide whether or not you are the best example for our children and all those who proudly serve our profession.

Excerpted and adapted with permission from 99 Ways to Lead and Succeed: Strategies for School Leaders, Eye on Education, 2009.