Virtues that create purpose for ethical leadership: Exemplary principals from Estonia and Finland

Eve Eisenschmidt, Elina Kuusisto, Katrin Poom-Valickis, Kirsi Tirri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study investigates how moral virtues create purpose for ethical leadership. Four exemplary principals, two from Estonia and two from Finland, were interviewed to study their perceptions of critical incidents in their work and how moral virtues are manifest in their reflections. The results of qualitative content analysis showed that the critical incidents were related to themselves as principals and to their work with teachers, students and families, and their communities as a whole. The principals demonstrated the virtues of wisdom and knowledge in creating long-term visions for their schools and building the schools for future generations. Other leading virtues were humanity, courage and justice, indicating caring and honesty and involving teachers and parents in decision-making. Based on our study, virtues seem to motivate principals to achieve their desired goals and solve challenging situations in morally sustainable ways. The study confirms that principals' work is value-based, and thus, reflection on moral virtues and the moral dimension of leadership should be integral parts of principals' education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of beliefs and values
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)433-446
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Principal
  • critical incident
  • moral virtues
  • 516 Educational sciences

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