The slide was entitled "Ethical Conduct of the Head of School".
The audience was all sitting Heads and I pointed out to them, that seeing as no Head was completely ethical in her or his conduct, there was no need to even talk about this topic. The real title should have been "How much unethical conduct can a Head of School get away with?". Most people survive by knowing where that line is.
When a Head is addressing a strategic priority, the Board has the right to expect them to be effective in achieving the desired outcome, and prudent and ethical in their means of getting there. Prudent usually means "don't bankrupt us to do this" and ethical is understood as "don't put us at legal risk by the tactics that you use". These are reasonable expectations, and most Heads, wisely, are sure to hit these benchmarks.
Having said that, in my days accrediting Canadian independent schools I saw some spectacular failures on the ethical front. Like the Head (aided and abetted by his Finance Director) who covered operating deficits each year by borrowing money from the school's Foundation and replacing its hard assets with promisorry notes from the operating side of the school. On paper, the Foundation remained flush with cash, but after seven or eight years of this tactic, the Foundation's resoucres had been drained and the Head and Finance Director were gone. In another case, a Head met the Board's objective of a 100% success rate on government exams, by pulling potentially failing student exam papers before their submission to the Ministry, and marking them absent.
Such major and public unethical behaviour is pretty easy to identify and address and usually ends up with the Head looking for work elsewhere. Day to day however, ethics are more of a shade of grey rather that black and white. I gave the group that day this as a self assessment quiz. Have you ever: backed a teacher in a conflict with a parent/student evern though your knew that your staff member was in the wrong? found a placement space for the child of a major donor (or sibling) in a class that was "full" with a waiting list? promoted someone without posting the position (or advertising a position when the "fix" was already in)? poached a teacher/administrator from another colleague without a reference check that might tip off the other school about what was happening? offered an under the table atlhletic scholarship to recruit a student athlete? hiring additional staff to cover for weak/underperforming faculty members or administrators rather then conducting a performance review and contructive dismissal or demotion?
The list is pretty endless and these "minor" ethical lapses are often excused by expediency or simply as ways of avoiding challenging situations and uncomfortable conversations. Do I think that these people are particularly unethical? Not really, but a tendancy to always take the easy way out, may mean that the Head is in the wrong profession!.