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Code of Leadership of the American Counseling Association (Approved by ACA Governing Council, April 9, 1997)


The standards and personal conduct of leaders have a profound impact on the health and success of any organization. This document establishes principles that define the behavior of elected and appointed officials of the American Counseling Association (ACA), its branches, regions, and divisions. The specification of this code enables the association to clarify to its leaders and members the nature of the ethical responsibilities held in common by its leaders.


ACA leaders commit to styles of leadership that reflect and are motivated by a desire to serve. The ethical leader understands that power and authority are bestowed by those being led. Organizational members create the opportunity for persons to lead and trust leaders to serve in a manner that benefits the organization and its members. A leader motivated by a service assumes responsibility while foregoing privilege, empowers those seeking to share leadership, and holds oneself accountable for results without seeking control. Such a leader focuses on effective stewardship of the organization’s reputation, social influence, and resources, not on self-interest, acquisitions of power, personal status, or private gain.

Organizational Well-Being

The primary responsibility of ACA leaders is to protect and promote the organizational health and effectiveness of the association. This fiduciary responsibility includes public representation, organizational dynamics and fiscal components. The effects of individual and collective decisions and actions upon these components of organizational health must be considered.

Organizational Inclusion

ACA is a complex organization composed of numerous professional divisions/specializations. It is incumbent upon ACA leaders to understand, value, and support the professional diversity of the organization and its represented professions at all levels. The attitudes and actions necessary for such professional inclusion are the same as those necessary for inclusion across other groups in society – humility, willingness to learn, and unconditional positive regard.

Professional Conduct

ACA leaders should act in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism established by ACA for the well-being of clients. In addition, ACA leaders’ modeling of professional conduct should extend beyond counseling practice to the behavior, attitudes, and communication processes with which they lead. Employees of the organization should be treated with courtesy, an interpersonal respect born of professionalism, and an awareness of the potential for injustice that exists in an imbalance of power. ACA meetings, correspondence, dialogue, and organizational deliberations should be marked by a willingness to resolve problems in a manner that is satisfactory to all persons concerned. Only through such professional interpersonal conduct can leaders hope to establish the constructive relational dynamic among leaders that is essential to organizational survival and effectiveness.


ACA leaders should carry out their responsibilities in a timely and efficient manner. Gaining the benefits of a leadership position without fulfilling the responsibilities of that position is a clear violation of the reasonable expectations of the organization and a primary cause of dissatisfaction among constituents.

Leaders who cannot fulfill their responsibilities should consider taking the step of resigning their positions.


Leaders should be easily accessible to their co-leaders and constituents. Responding to inquiries and comments from organizational members in a timely manner is essential for the following reasons:

Collective Decision Making

ACA leaders will avoid operating unilaterally and in isolation from the consensus of co-leaders, unless to do so is clearly in keeping with an approved task mandate from a governing body. Leaders will deliberate with appropriate co-leaders regarding fiscal matters, implementation of policies, and decisions of organizational direction. Such collaborative decision processes are essential to representative governance.

Fiscal Responsibility

In addition to determining and monitoring expenditures of organizational funds, ACA leaders will ensure that the fiscal priority of the organization is direct services to and representation of its members. This fiscal priority determines (but is not limited to) the following expenditure guidelines: