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Superintendents' Professional and Moral Authority

Updated: Aug 12, 2019

Superintendents benefit by combining Professional authority and Moral authority that uses intrinsic motivation to appeal to members of the organization. Professional authority is seen in the seasoned craft knowledge and personal expertise of each teacher. “When leadership practice is based on professional authority, teachers can be expected to respond in common socialization, accepted tenets of practice, and internalized expertise” (Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 31). Professional authority recognizes that teachers’ classroom experiences and expertise are valuable to the overall organization and that, instead of relying on rules or personality leaders can rely on accepted standards of practice which lead to student success.

Moral authority is seen as the obligations and duties derived from widely shared values, ideas, and ideals. “When leadership practice is based on moral authority, teachers can be expected to respond to shared commitments and felt interdependence” (Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 31). In this case, the school community has developed a shared vision of what they are trying to accomplish and the leaders know that everyone involved in student learning is committed to realizing that vision. Teachers do not need to be “monitored” to see if they are doing things the “right way”. Instead, they will simply do the right things for the right reasons. Sergiovanni believes that the moral dimension of leadership needs to be moved to the center of all the leader does. If the leader does this successfully, then the organization will transform into a community of people committed to shared values and people’s actions will be in concert with the shared values.

Sergiovanni believes that leaders need to create a response from within their followers rather than some external pressure which offers rewards to those who act appropriately and punishments for those who do not. “Recognizing that people follow leaders for many different reasons, moral leadership moves that response to an emotional connection that people have to the organization and its core values and shared beliefs” (Fech, 2009, p. 37).

In an educational setting, moral leadership is about placing the core values of the community at the center of all the school district does without giving thought to individual self-interest. This is one of the challenges of moral leadership in schools as people are engaged in the decision-making process (Sergiovanni, 1991, p. 331). In fact, when two choices are in conflict, the leader must choose the one that is good and effective for their schools not what is in the best interest of a single individual (p. 326).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of student and staff values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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