Principled Leadership: An Expansion of Authentic Leadership Theory

Year: 2019

Author: Blanchard, Sharon, Scott, Shelleyann, Scott, Donald

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This doctoral study explored university leaders’ understanding of leadership, beliefs and values, and approaches to their role with a view to further examine the conceptualization of “principled leadership” within a change management context. Principled Leadership was conceptualized as including three key elements: authenticity (identity), spirituality, love (a deep commitment to an ethic of care). A significant theory underpinning this study was Avolio and his colleagues’ authentic leadership which encompasses leaders’ capacity to: create trust, forge positive and respectful relationships with their faculty and staff, know themselves and have the capacity to be self-reflective, and to be credible and trustworthy, amongst other characteristics. This mixed methods study was framed within the discovery dimension of Appreciative Inquiry and was situated in Nova Scotia, Canada. We included interviews with 33 university leaders (presidents, vice presidents, a/vice presidents, deans, and directors) and 27 questionnaire responses. Findings indicated that presidents and their senior leadership teams, while acknowledging the intense challenges of their institutional mandates as well as in managing people, were working from a place of authenticity where honesty, integrity, and trust were critical, had a high degree of respect for the people with whom they worked, a profound sense of responsibility for their welfare, and an incredibly humane approach to their leadership stance with a high degree of care shown. This paper explored the key dimensions of authentic leadership and principled leadership and discussed the importance of love or a deep ethic of care as being a crucial expansion of authentic leadership. The leaders in this study, while extremely authentic struggled with managing change and working with difficult people; thus, we explore the viability and impact of “love” and “care”, and spirituality in leadership and how these values and characteristics are important in working within contentious change environments within universities. One important question raised in the study was: Can an ‘authentic’ leader know oneself (identity and self-reflection) but still be uncaring and toxic to work for and with, and how would this be different to a principled leader? Hence, we will unpack authentic leadership theory and compare it with principled leadership to explore these important expansions. This study will be of interest to higher education administration and academe, government agencies, education providers, professional associations, professional development providers, and leaders who are interested in promoting more value-based forms of leadership and positive organizational cultures.