Adept management of resources

Leaders understand the information they have in order to make decisions on how best to use resources of money, time, and space and gain support for their learners and staff.

They ensure they have the right information in making financial, human resource and property decisions, and they seek specialist advice to assist their decision-making if needed. They prioritise seeking and allocating resources that match the organisation’s strategic plan.

Educational leadership capability framework, Education Council, 2018

The full title for this capability is: Adept management of resources to achieve vision and goals.

This page summarises some thinking and research related to this capability. It is not a comprehensive or definitive background to the capability.

This leadership capability and a second in the framework – Strategically thinking and planning – are closely linked to two of the dimensions of leadership practice that most impact student outcomes identified in Robinson (2009): establishing goals and expectations, and resourcing strategically.

Resourcing strategically 

Organisational management skills are a key complement to the work of supporting curriculum and instruction.

(Grissom, 2011)

Resourcing strategically means mobilising resources to make the most difference to students. 

The best evidence synthesis on school leadership and student outcomes (Robinson, 2009) concluded that principals can influence student achievement through decisions about staffing, and teaching and learning resources.

In appendix 8, it sets out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions implied by and embedded in this leadership dimension as:

Alignment of staffing resources

  • Can determine the type of expertise required to achieve particular goals.
  • Can transparently and fairly recruit such expertise from within or outside the school and openly explain the choices made.
  • Develops relationships with community, universities, professional developers, and other schools that widen the networks of strategic expertise available to the school.

Alignment of teaching resources

  • Evaluates the effectiveness of alternative teaching/programme resources in terms of intended learning outcomes for students.
  • Develops the school timetable in such a way that it reflects pedagogical priorities.
  • Develops, or advocates for the development of, resources essential to the achievement of school goals.
  • Ignores or defers funding opportunities that overload teachers and detract from priority goals.
  • Recruits and inducts staff into school/department/syndicate-wide assessment and pedagogical procedures.

The synthesis noted, too, that we need to develop more understanding about this dimension and the knowledge and skills leaders need.

Other researchers have found that school leaders' impact on student learning is through organisational management: who they hire; how they motivate, assign and create opportunities for teachers to improve; and how they influence the working conditions.

Coordination and coherence

Coordination theories today emphasise persistent interaction, through which shared meanings evolve. 

In research looking at the coordination and coherence of a school improvement initiative, Robinson (2017) finds that effective leaders:

  • maintain a continuity of focus from year to year, incrementally pursuing long-term goals
  • systematically monitor progress towards goals and how effectively they are resourced
  • create space for teacher learning, and buffer staff from distractions
  • listen to reports of, and look out for, obstacles and barriers
  • resolve problems that span organisational units quickly, in respectful ways.

There are many studies that reinforce the importance of focus. One recent five-year study, which looked at 5,000 leaders across a range of organisations, found focus was the most influential factor in leaders' performance. The study also found that leaders who focused intensely on a small number of goals experience better work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, and less burnout. (Schmoker, 2019)

Talent management

You need the capacity and the capability in the school to seize opportunities to realise your strategy as they arise.

(Secondary headteacher quoted in Davies, 2006, p11)

Capacity is having the appropriate level of resources. Capability refers to the quality and skills of those resources. Adept managers work hard to ensure they have the right number of people with the right skills and competencies. 

This talent management role is a key part of principal work – the decisions principals take to ensure teacher quality and provide opportunities for professional growth are an important channel to influence student achievement. 

Attracting talented people is essential, but you also need a systematic approach to using their abilities and building their skills. Without this, you will soon lose their commitment. 

Having a coherent plan and processes for developing a pool of talent in your school will mean you are better placed to meet likely future demands. (Davies, 2010)

Part of a plan might look at how you will get the information you need to make good decisions about your staffing. For example, how you will:

  • identify critical roles and scarce skill sets early  
  • keep abreast of the skills of your teachers
  • differentiate high- and low-performing teachers (Grissom, 2018).

Strategic talent developers

Davies (2010, p16) suggests that strategic leaders have the following roles:

talent spotter – What talent do I need and how can I spot it?

talent coach – How can I bring out the best in people when it matters most?

talent blender – How can I blend the available talent to get maximum performance?

talent conductor – How can I create a flow of talented people?

talent management – What will attract talented people and keep them for longer?

Mobilising staff

A research study into leadership practices in Canada (Bouchamma, 2012) found that effective school leaders focused significantly more on mobilising staff by using four levers:

  • information 
  • power 
  • knowledge  
  • recognition.

They communicated transparently and respectfully about every aspect of teachers' work, responded to staff needs, demonstrated appreciation, and encouraged staff to grow and pursue relevant professional development.

Effective staffing practices

The effectiveness of principals is associated with rates of teacher turnover. The more effective principals, in situations that allow for it, typically succeed more often in retaining high performers and letting go low performers (Grissom, 2018).

Some principals choose to assign less effective teachers to "lower-stakes" classrooms. But Grissom (2017) warns that such "strategic" decisions can have a lasting negative impact on these students. Assigning the best teachers to the students who need them most won't always be a straight forward decision.

The essence of professional capital

Video courtesy of Conexus Education on YouTube.

Time management

Effective principals focus their time on the highest impact areas, help teachers prioritise their time, and create learning environments that maximise high-quality student learning. (The Wing Institute)

Grissom, Loeb and associates have been using large-scale datasets to investigate how effectively principals use their time. Their recent findings include:

  • building time management capabilities may be a worthwhile strategy for principals wanting to increase their time on high-priority tasks and reduce stress (2015). 
  • only time spent on some instructional functions predict student achievement growth. The most effective uses of time they found were: teacher coaching, teacher evaluation, and developing the school’s educational program (2013).

Reflective questions

  • Are time and energy being diffused across several initiatives in your school? How would you know? 
  • What channels do you have for investigating the effectiveness of the resourcing in your school? How do you respond when middle leaders report barriers and obstacles they see staff encountering?
  • As a leader in your school you have dual goals – ensuring teacher quality and providing opportunities for professional growth. What challenges have you experienced in meeting these goals? What skills or knowledge do you need to develop further? 

Related pages

Guides for managing your school

Pakuranga College – Organising for professional learning

Mapping potential overload (Word 2007 24 kB)

Tū Rangatira: Māori-medium educational leadership

This capability features strongly in the whenu (key roles of leadership):

  • He kaiwhakarite – the manager

Tū rangatira (English)

Tū rangatira (te reo Māori)


Bouchamma, Y. (2012). Leadership practices in effective schools in disadvantaged areas of Canada. Education Research International, Article ID 712149.

Davies, B. Davies, B. (2010). The nature and dimensions of strategic leadership. International Studies in Educational Administration, 38(1).

Grissom, J. Loeb, S. (2011). Triangulating principal effectiveness: How perspectives of parents, teachers, and assistant principals identify the central importance of managerial skills. Accessed on Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis.

Grissom, J. Loeb, S. Master, B. (2013). Effective instructional time use for school leaders: Longitudinal Evidence From Observations of Principals. Accessed on Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis.

Grissom, J. 
Bartanen, B. (2018).  Strategic retention: Principal effectiveness and teacher turnover in multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems. Educational Research Journal

Grissom, J. Loeb, S. Mitani, H. (2015). Principal time management skills: Explaining patterns in principals' time use, job stress, and perceived effectiveness. Accessed on Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis.

Grissom, J. Kalogrides, D. Loeb, S. (2017). Strategic staffing? How performance pressures affect the distribution of teachers within schools and resulting student achievement. Accessed on Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis.

Robinson, V. Hohepa, M. and Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best Evidence Synthesis iteration [BES]. Ministry of Education. 

Robinson, V. Bendikson, L. McNaughton, S. Wilson, A. Zhu, Tong. (2017). Joining the dots: The challenge of creating coherent school improvement. Teachers College Record, 119. Accessed on ResearchGate.

Schmoker, M. (2019). Embracing the power of less. Educational Leadership 76:4, 24-29.

The Wing Institute. Principal competencies: Resourcing strategically

Image credit: JJ Ying, White and gray optical illusion, on Unsplash

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