ETL504 – Sergiovanni’s Virtues of Leadership

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sergiovanni’s (2005) article on the four virtues of leadership. He suggests that leaders need to embody the virtues of hope, trust, piety, and civility if they are going to successfully lead in their school.

1. Hope. He suggests that hope is a necessity if change is to take place in a school environment. Facing reality will not bring about change, but relying on hope will (or might, hopefully.) He cautions against mistaking wishful thinking for hope, as wishful thinking is passive and will not result in change, whereas hope will, hopefully… “Hopeful leaders… react actively to what they hope for and deliberately strive to turn hopefulness into reality” (Sergiovanni, 2005, p.113).

Linked to hope is faith, which comes from “commitment to a cause, from strong beliefs in a set of ideas, and from other convictions” (2005, p.114). Faith allows us to see the possibilities of the future that we can then hope for.

So why hope? Hope can be seen as the same as setting goals, and hopeful leaders can see a person’s or situation’s potential and bring this out in a deliberate process.

2. Trust. Sergiovanni says that members of a school are interdependent and held together by “relational trust” (2005, p. 117), and this trust is high when every member feels supported and safe.

Trust is lost when people keep things to themselves and hoard ideas, and when trust is lost people are less likely to be open and helpful. Why does this matter? Sergiovanni states a Bryk & Schneider study (2003) that found that “relational trust [is] an important characteristic of the schools which demonstrated student learning improvements” (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 118). Improving student learning outcomes is one of, if not the most important, goals of the schooling system and if developing trust can improve this then educational leaders need to be focusing on developing trust in their schools. This can be achieved through the “trust-first” (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 119) approach and maintaining consistency between words and actions.

3. Piety. Piety means showing loyalty, respect, and affection among group settings. It encourages looking inward to a narrow group and “demands conformity and justifies exclusion” (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 120). But this doesn’t sound very leader-like yet. That is where Sergiovanni introduces 4. Civility at the same time to counter the effects of piety. Civility is needed to draw us outwards and embrace differences and different groups. It “welcomes diversity, encourages tolerance, and legitimates controversy” (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 120-120).

Piety fosters bond-building whereas civility encourages bridge-building to being the two virtues into harmony. Sergiovanni quotes Putnam’s (2000) wonderful analogy of piety being the superglue of a school, and civility being the WD40.

Sergiovanni’s virtues, hope, trust, piety, and civility, help to strengthen the school’s heartbeat and becomes the school’s best defense against obstacles (Sergiovanni, 2005, p.122). They seem to make wonderful sense to me as an aspiring leader, but will take constant working on and improving if they are to stay effective. I feel the balance of the four will be the greatest challenge, but when acted on appropriately will result in a beneficial leader for all.



 Reference List

Bryk, A. S. & Schnider, B. I. (2003). Trust in Schools: A core resource for school reform, Educational Leadership 60(6), pp. 40-45

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, Simon & Schuster.

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). The Virtues of Leadership. The Educational Forum, 69(Winter), 112-123. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from


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