A Principal's Critical Resource - Delegation

By Jason Leahy posted 06-16-2017 08:17

​School leadership is not getting any easier. No mystery, right? Even the most seasoned principals are challenged by the complexities of the job and the time required to do it well. Teacher evaluations, learning standards, 21st century skills, school discipline, restorative justice, etc., etc. layered on top of a myriad of managerial tasks and fires to put out keep you on your toes. However, do not lose sight of the importance of your work. You are engaged in the highest of callings with the opportunity to influence so many. Never doubt that your work matters. Your leadership matters. YOU MATTER!


To help you keep a handle on what you are responsible for, a group of committed IPA members and staff created The Principal’s Calendar (available for IPA Members). As you review the to-dos and other resources, you may experience two conflicting emotions. The first is a sense of relief for having a comprehensive list of reminders to keep you focused on what you need to do to lead your school effectively. Conversely, a slight feeling of dread may also nag at you as you realize there is no way you can do everything required. Well, allow me to let you off the hook right now. You cannot, at least not by yourself.


In order to raise your performance, the performance of your staff, and the performance of your students, you need help. Why? As alluded to, there is too much important work to do. Schools are complex organizations with many moving parts and a web of relationships to manage. If you choose not to solicit the help of others in your pursuit of educational excellence, you risk not only not getting everything done but also not doing what you do get done well. (Sorry for that mouthful.) In addition, you threaten the important balance between work and home, may become frustrated with your work which likely will result in frustrating others, and could lose credibility as a leader with those both inside and outside of your organization.


So, what to do? In my opinion, you must tap into one of your most critical resources: delegation. While technology and other tools may make you more efficient, there is no other way to get everything done but to share the load. Again, no mystery, but let me offer you a few reminders for why it is important. Delegation helps you:

  • Maintain a standard of excellence – Doing quality work requires time. Too many tasks to juggle splits your attention and keeps you from digging deep into any one issue.
  • Empower others – Your teachers, students, and volunteers desire to do meaningful work. When you ask them for their help, especially with activities directly tied to your school’s mission, they will gain a sense of empowerment and buy-in. Of course, be sure to provide them the support, time, resources, and follow-up they need to do a good job. Otherwise, they will become frustrated, and you will lose credibility.
  • Keep your sanity – Delegation provides you margin in your day so you have time to take a breath, reflect, meaningfully connect with staff and students, and handle the unexpected. In addition, you are able to better balance work and home so you can take care of those most precious to you.


While understanding delegation’s benefits is helpful, how do you do it? Here are some tips I have learned from others over the years:

  • Clarify what must be done by you and you alone – Depending on the context of the organization you lead, there are some activities you cannot get away from no matter your skill set or whether you like the activity or not.
  • Know your strengths – Do you know what you are good at and can do better than anyone else in your organization? If so, this is a good starting point for categorizing tasks into what you should do versus what you should delegate to others. If you do not have a good handle on your strengths, it is time to schedule some time to reflect and self-assess.
  • Understand what brings you joy – In most cases, what brings you joy will line up with your strengths. However, you may find instances where what brings you pleasure with your work is mundane and could easily be delegated to someone else. In addition, other people on your team may be more skilled at something than you. Be careful, though, not to give away everything that you enjoy about what you do. Your personal fulfillment in your work is important too.
  • Know the strengths of your team – In addition to recognizing your own strengths, you must know what others are good at in order to determine what they are best suited to take on. Of course, this takes time and intentional relationship building on your part with the members of your team.
  • Trust the good intentions of others – Delegating work can be a little unnerving, because there is some risk involved. However, I have found, for the most part, people want to be helpful. This is especially true when they know the work is meaningful, logical, and can positively influence your organization. In addition, it helps when they see you carrying your fair share of what needs to be done.
  • You have to ask – Plain and simple, people do not know what you need if you do not ask. Moreover, it is always better to ask than to tell when possible. This is especially true with your high performers who may already be doing what you need before you bring it up.
  • Follow-up – Just because you delegate a task to someone who agrees to do it (cheerfully or not), it does not mean the job will automatically get done. Without harassing your staff, it is important to check in with those you have delegated something to. If the job is complete, you will have an opportunity to share your sincere appreciation and celebrate their effort. If not, you can ask if they are clear on your expectations or have the proper resources and support. Essentially, you must follow-up with staff to delegate effectively. It simultaneously allows you the opportunity to let your staff know you are available to help, grateful for their contribution, and will hold them appropriately accountable for what needs to be done.


Effective school leadership requires effective delegation. As you read through The Principal’s Calendar, I challenge you to immediately begin thinking through what tasks must be done by you due to the requirements of your position, what you should do because of your skill set, and what work is best suited for someone else. If you are interested in studying delegation more deeply, Michael Hyatt has written extensively and recorded a few podcasts on the topic. You can learn more by visiting his website (www.michaelhyatt.com) and search the term delegation. Finally, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at the IPA if we can ever assist you in your leadership journey. We are here to serve you, because YOU MATTER!

P.S. A big THANK YOU to Stifel for sponsoring the IPA's Principal's Calendar.