Values-based leadership is, at its core, decisional leadership. Traditionally, educational leadership has tended to fall into a range of rationality dealing with consequences and consensus. This “do things right” approach has come under intense scrutiny by decision makers searching for more ethically justifiable responses through a new vision of education and schooling, a “do the right thing” style of decision making. Decisions based in principle—that is, morals and ethics—are commonly deemed as being authentic, fulfilling, and more justifiable than decisions based on rationality and preference. Embedded in this new moral urgency lies an inherent tension in that “to do the right thing” routinely begs the question “the right thing for whom?” Differences have arisen in terms of what values-based leadership and inclusion means—whose values, who is included, how to address leadership for inclusive practices, thus rendering conceptualization and implementation of inclusive practice qualitatively different according to context. The achievement of all students must be viewed both as an economic and values-oriented imperative consistent with inclusive practices. The term, inclusion is socially constructed and can carry with it stigmatizing and exclusionary effects that ultimately result in perpetuating oppressive forces on already marginalized individuals.
Values-based leadership has an emphasis on school settings that are welcoming and affirming to all students, especially those most at risk for failure. Its underlying beliefs and assumptions guide practices and policies of inclusive practices and sound moral decisions. Moral decisions are made, not in isolation, but rather through a journey of interaction and association with others. Unfortunately, this interpersonal journey is often fraught with anxiety because everyone’s experience is sourced in a different worldview. Unravelling the intricacies of resolution possibilities has become increasingly complex because often there may be several equally appropriate responses to any dilemma; therefore, the decisional challenge becomes how to adjudicate between and among possibilities. Values-based leadership for inclusive practices concerns various marginalized groups including English-language learners, those who experience gender discrimination, those who are in the foster care system, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. The broader conceptualization of inclusive schools adds to extant discourses about students with exceptional needs and provides effective strategies that school leaders operating from a social justice framework can implement to create more inclusive school environments for all students.