2 Delegation

Delegation involves giving someone the authority to carry out a task or make a decision on your behalf. However, although you can delegate leadership responsibilities, as a school leader you will still be accountable and ultimately responsible. Therefore you will be the person that the school management committee (SMC) and/or the government education supervisor will hold to account. There are tasks that are local to your school and you, as the school leader, have sole responsibility over the delegation of responsibilities to others.

Delegation is recognised as a management technique that improves efficiency, offers the manager some space to tackle other duties and can provide opportunities for others to develop themselves.

The ‘grid of urgency’ (Figure 2) is a simple way to prioritise your work by clustering all tasks into categories, such as those that need your urgent attention and should be carried out by you, and those that you can easily delegate to someone else. Figure 3 is a representation of how you could cluster your tasks.


Urgent and important


Important but not urgent


Urgent but not important


Neither urgent nor important


Figure 2 The grid of urgency.

The priorities in the grid are as follows:

  • Priority 1 (P1): Urgent and important (U and I): These tasks have to be prioritised over everything else. Although you may involve others, you are ultimately responsible and therefore have to ensure that the tasks are carried out effectively and on time.
  • Priority 2 (P2): Important but not urgent (I not U): These tasks are not priorities, but you would usually want to do them yourself because they are important. Because they are important it is a good idea not to leave them too late, otherwise they will become a P1 task. If you decide to delegate such a task, it is important that you supervise and/or provide the appropriate support to that person to ensure the task is carried out to the standard you require.
  • Priority 3 (P3): Urgent but not important (U not I): Whatever the reason, these tasks require an urgent response but they are not important to your role. Because these are not important, you should avoid putting too much time into these tasks. These are the tasks you can often be pressured into doing because they are presented as urgent, but after a few minutes of working on them you realise they are not. To avoid a delayed response, it is better to delegate them to someone else.
  • Priority 4 (P4): Neither urgent nor important (neither U nor I): You should ask yourself whether you need to do these tasks at all. Such tasks are distractions and are not a good use of your time, so delegate where appropriate.

It is worth noting that others may present some tasks to you as urgent and/or important, although you may think otherwise. As a leader determined to manage your time effectively, you have to stand your ground and be firm. The grid of urgency offers a model for you to prioritise your tasks and activities.

Figure 3 Delegating work to colleagues.

Activity 2: Using the urgency grid for delegation

Create your own version of the urgency grid in your Learning Diary, labelling the boxes ‘P1’, ‘P2’, ‘P3’ and ‘P4’. Now consider the tasks that have come to you in the past two weeks and write them down in the various categories on the grid. They do not have to be tasks that have now been completed. They will vary in importance and urgency.

When you have done this, think about what, if anything, has been done so far about each task. Look at whether any section of the grid has more completed tasks than the other sections, and the extent to which you have delegated completed tasks. Finally, think about which tasks could be delegated and to whom.

You should consider the following:

  • The urgency of the task: Urgent tasks have to be prioritised at all times. This does not mean they have to be completed by you. You can easily delegate them or involve others.
  • The importance of the task: There are tasks that you will want to do yourself, although they may be time-consuming. You have to prioritise these, but if for any reason you feel the need to delegate them, you will have to monitor that they are delivered in a timely and efficient way.
  • The ability of the individual who will be taking on the task: This matters because you will expect the quality of the solution to be the same as though you took on the task yourself. Therefore, it is advisable to delegate to those who you are confident can deliver. Experience sometimes counts!
  • Most importantly, how much time you both have: If it will take the person you are delegating to much longer to complete the task than if you did it yourself, think again. If the person will require a lot of supervision to be able to tackle the task satisfactorily, think again.

Prioritising your work and choosing what to delegate is never an easy task, because you have to make sure the job gets done. Issues relating to trust and the appropriate support from the person on the task are further reasons why care should be taken when delegating. But reluctance to delegate can leave you jaded and overwhelmed, which can ultimately affect your performance.

Tables 2 and 3 show examples of urgency grids made by two school leaders – one in an elementary and one in a secondary school. To be able to do this task effectively, both of the school leaders had to:

  • establish how much of their time is spent on each task
  • determine the problem areas
  • try to plan ahead
  • consider delegating ‘urgent but not important’ tasks, as well as tasks that are ‘neither urgent nor important’.
Table 2 An elementary school leader’s urgency grid.


Speak to Adnan’s parents about his absenteeism.

Share my observations of Mr Anil’s class and suggest he observes Mr Sharma’s class.


Send a reminder for furniture order for the new section.

Send the students’ monthly attendance records to the District Office.


Ask more Class V students to bring their projects for the visitor coming to school tomorrow.


Meet the school management committee members sometime during the week for a routine catch-up.

Table 3 A secondary school leader’s urgency grid.


Speak to the staff about filling in for the physics teacher, Mr Mohanty, who has to take leave for a family funeral.

Send Manish to the health check-up for disabled students by 11 a.m.

Inform DIET of staff to attend technology training.


Organise the cultural performances for the event and check if extra practice will be needed.

Get the permission to travel for the students who will be representing the school at the inter-school competition.


Arrange for a microphone to be made available to the speakers on Children’s Day.


Check with the school management committee if they would like to increase the watchman’s maintenance after two months.

Having considered how managing your time and delegating tasks to others may enable you to improve your effectiveness and efficiency, you will hopefully be in a position to see how you may create space for focusing on your own personal development needs.

In the next section you will look at personal development planning. You will begin to think about what you are good at in your role as a school leader, and will be self-critical in identifying what you need to improve on. These reflections will help you improve your own practice, enable you to develop the practice of your staff more effectively and ultimately improve the learning of your students.

1 Prioritising your work and managing your time effectively as a school leader

3 Planning your development