School leadership is considered a central agent in the implementation of “New Governance” concepts which have been introduced in Germany by means of accountability measures, decentralization and a growth of autonomy and competition. With the adjustment of policies, rights and duties of school leaders have changed considerably. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to leadership research by providing descriptive evidence on the relevance of specific areas of leadership activity reported by school principals and their actual priorities in terms of day-to-day workload. In particular, the authors analyze whether individually reported priorities are reflected in the actual distribution of workload in a daily routine.
The empirical analysis uses data collected in the German SHaRP study (“School leaders’ activities between more responsibility and more power”). Based on a sample of 153 school leaders from six German federal states the authors perform regression models to determine the association between workload in specific fields of leadership activity, individually reported relevance of management tasks and systemic and contextual conditions at school.
As expected, organizational and personnel management and development are stated to be most important for leadership activity. These priorities are not at least reflected in the observed distribution of workload over fields of activity. Rather, a vast amount of time – as far as it is not absorbed by lessons – is spent on administrative tasks. A shift of workload from teaching responsibilities to governmental tasks is mainly achieved by longer working hours and appears to depend primarily on the system context.
The results highlight the relevance of organizational skills and the need to develop conceptual foundations for strategic leadership at schools. Further research should focus not only on the contextual setting and system characteristics, but on the interplay of contextual characteristics and leadership strategies. In times of increasing budgetary constraints leadership research needs to consider outcome measures in terms of quality of schooling to identify determinants of effective leadership.
The paper contributes to leadership research by a quantitative analysis of the individually reported relevance of organizational, curricular and human resources management and development for leadership activity. The authors provide descriptive evidence on a significant gap between these claims and reality in terms of actual day-to-day workload.
The data used for research presented in this paper was collected during the project School leaders’ activities between more responsibility and more power, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under project number 01JG1007. The authors are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.
Brauckmann, S. and Schwarz, A. (2015), "No time to manage? The trade-off between relevant tasks and actual priorities of school leaders in Germany", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 749-765. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-10-2014-0138Download as .RIS
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