A sense of vulnerability

The principal role is occupying an ever-expanding space and requiring intensified and sustained 24/7 performativity-driven levels of individual engagement (Gronn & Lacey, 2004).  Visioning yourself in this space as an aspirational school leader can be a daunting process, but one that Gronn & Lacey (2004) believe is important.  Further it is just as important to establish a positioning space during this period of role transition for the self-rehearsal of likely future roles.

Three Minute Thesis

This is my three minute thesis proposal that I am presenting  to my peers and supervisors (without references).

Ready to Lead? Is Talent Management the response required to address the growing school leadership crisis?

There is no denying that the role of a school principal is complex and challenging.  School Leadership is facing a growing crisis with approximately 70% of principals reaching retirement age in the next five years. It is further well known that the role of school principal is becoming less attractive to qualified and suitable applicants.

To address this growing concern a plethora of research has occurred over the previous two decades such as the 7 Systems Leadership Study (7SLS) and International Study of the Preparation of Principals (ISPP).  These studies and others that have followed have consistently identified that this is a global challenge and that appropriate preparation is a key strategy to improving principal retention and engagement.

However, how leaders are systematically identified and supported is unclear.  What is clear in the literature is that there needs to be earlier identification of suitable school leaders. There is an identified five-year window from teaching commencement, in which leadership aspiration needs to be harnessed or there is a loss of 50% of potential school leader aspirants. Addressing the retention, support and identification of principals in Queensland is a complex problem and this study examines whether talent management is the response required?  It is acknowledged that what is identified in research is not always evident in practice and there needs to be an examination of what is currently occurring in Queensland Schools in regards to principal preparation and talent management as much of the research regarding Queensland is dated.

This study will examine the challenges of a talent management system in Queensland, by taking into consideration culture, legislation, policy, practices, values and role of participants and facilitators of talent management. To do so, this research project will use a pragmatic research methodology using a blended theoretical framework of narrative and grounded theory to examine the need for and elements of a talent management system in the journey towards principalship. The concept of talent management will be built upon the principles of social exchange theory, which implies that with targeted investment, acknowledgement and commitment to an individual, the individual will reciprocate this investment and will show greater loyalty, commitment and motivation back to the employer or system. It will define talent management as a balanced approach to inclusive and targeted practices that are used to identify potential leaders early in their career from within education.

To conclude, this study will contribute to the field of school leadership, by proposing that principal preparation is only one part of an entire talent management system that needs to be considered in addressing the growing challenges facing recruitment, recommendation, retention and support of school principals in Queensland. This will lead to the development of a process for principals in Queensland to effectively talent manage teachers and other leaders as one mechanism to address the growing principal leadership crisis in schools.

Playing with Methodology

After some wider reading around research methodology, a foundation of this study’s structure is coming together.  This research project will use a pragmatic research methodology using a blended theoretical framework of narrative and grounded theory to examine the need for and elements of a talent management system in the journey towards principalship.   This will lead to the development of a process for principals in Queensland to effectively talent manage teachers and other leaders as one mechanism to address the growing principal leadership crisis in schools.

research methodology

A short deviation

For the moment, I am having a short deviation from focusing on the research behind Talent Management in schools.  The purpose of this is to examine the research methodology that will be used to examine talent management in the Queensland schooling context.  Initial reading focuses of Creswell and his works in regards to Educational Research.  By reading further afield, I can confirm that a mixed methods approach or as Clarke & Visser (2019) define it as a pragmatic methodological approach, will be the proposed approach to this research.  It is intended that the research will consist first of a quantitative data collection to assist in determining the participants, using maximal sampling.  Due consideration will be given to participants who have engaged in formal preparation programs, have additional qualifications, work shadow experience, previous leadership roles. It will also assist in identifying participants who have had experience with talent management systems to unpack participant motivation for principalship.  Finally this data collection process will be used to build a chronology of work/employment history.  Once this data has been used to define the participants through maximal sampling, a quantitative approach will be utilised to understand the experiences of aspirants or existing principals with talent management systems.


A risk of social exchange theory and homophily in talent management

Blau(1964) discusses that social attraction is about reaping the benefits of the interaction.    To be engaged in a social interaction, then a person will do what they can to prove themselves to be accepted into the social grouping.

In a workforce relationship, one of two things may occur that works towards the benefits of a social interaction;

From a leaders perspective – The investment into a social interaction / exchange with an employee or subordinate, has the intended reward of the employee possibly taking on more responsibility as a ‘favour’ for the leader or may even result in the employee becoming more aligned and supportive of the workplace culture and agenda.

From the employee’s perspective – The investment into a social interaction / exchange with a leader, by taking on responsibility, or supporting direction of the leader, will result in greater investment and reward for the employee in the way of preferable treatment, promotional opportunity or investment in personal development.

The risk in this stems from the unintended bias or preferable treatment that can occur.  The principles of homophily then come into play, in which individuals will associate more with like minded individuals, or similar cultural or geographical heritage.

This poses a significant risk factor for talent management in a schooling system where values of equity and fairness for all employees is not only valued by the teaching staff, but is expected from union movements.

A further consideration of the impact of homophily is that leaders will invest in others that are similar to themselves.  As such in a system that values diversity, will talent management restrict or impeded the diversity of leaders that are available to the system?  However, in the same breath, there needs to be strategic selection and investment into school leaders to suit individual schools or needs of schooling communities.   These two contrasting ideas requires systems to be highly planned around recruitment and have specific talent programs that are targeted to the development of specific skills for certain leaders.  For existing school leaders, it means they need to be aware of the implications of social exchange and homophily, and look beyond the influences of social exchange to identify future leaders without bias.

How do systems open the eyes of principals to potential, rather than just performance in targeting individuals for talent management opportunities?



Needs of leaders and their preparation program.

Notman & Henry (2011) identified seven leadership capacities of school leaders; management, communication, consultation, knowing when to lead, decision making, critical reflection and inter- personal connectedness with members of the school community.   Further, Salfi (2011) contributes that school leaders develop colleagues to lead.  These skills or capacities are further reinforced across the literature (Walker and Carr-Stewart, 2006) and in international research such as the ISPP.  To ensure the development of these skills in aspiring and newly appointed principals, Ng and Sing-ying(2016) summarise the findings from international research and compared these to the expectations of  Newly appointed principals in principal preparation programs (below).  This is a key consideration for principals when identifying, recommending and supporting potential aspirants.  These considerations must be viewed in addition with system leadership standards such as the AITSL Professional Standards for Principals and Leadership Profiles.


The need for early identification of potential leaders

Williams and Morey (2015) and Lacey (2003), identified that there is a five year window at the beginning of a teachers career to tap into leadership interest, without doing so, results in a 50% reduction in aspirants. The argument for earlier identification of potential leaders can be further bolstered by employment trends more generally.   The Australian HR Institute (2018) identified that one of the greatest retention factors for employees is career progression opportunities with 63.2% of employee departure contributed to a lack of progression opportunities. The education sector was one of the largest respondents to this research contributing to 12.05% of the findings.  While the Turnover and Retention Research Report, does not specifically discuss any occupation, it is clear that the level of turnover is perceived in majority as being far too high and slightly too high, especially as there is a significant turnover of employees in beginning stages of their career (40.6%) with 19.8% of turnover of all employees occurring in the 18-25yr old bracket and another 37% in the 26-35yr old bracket.   This is further supported by the findings of the Staff in Australia’s Schools Report (2013) which identified that up to 43.4% of early career teachers (1-3yrs) were unsure about continuing with the profession. Out of the remaining percentage who intended to remain beyond three years, only 1-2% had aspirations for leadership over the next three years.

Further to these findings, effective management and leadership is identified as one of the most effective methods to retain employees with 66.9% of respondents identifying this as the most effective, followed by positive workplace culture and opportunities for career progression.

We need to not only train our school leaders on how to be relational and identify talent, but create the space in schools for career progression.  This connects further back to the concepts of social exchange theory and reinforces the need for a strong Talent Management system.  However, if Talent Management is a critical component of employee retention, how do we counter the mediating effects of the profession as identified by Asplund (2019)?

Is an extension to our mentoring and induction programs for beginning teachers part of this process? In State Education in Queensland, beginning teachers are mentored for one year, should a formalisation of this process be extended out to five years, with the role of the school principal taking a lead in developing early career teachers and identifying the potential future leaders of the schooling system?



Implications of employee perceptions

Williams & Morey (2015), examined the perceptions of teachers in Adventist Schools Australia towards applying for school leadership.  A few findings that are suggested is that age is a factor that influences a teachers decision to apply for a leadership position.  A part of this is the sense of lack of experience.  Another major perception that is limiting interest in applying for the role is the impact to work-life balance and pressure of the role of principal.   What is interesting in this piece of research is the exploration of religious elements in impacting the decision to become a school principal.   The concern identified, was the belief that principals in Catholic or Religious ethos schools is that the principal has to fulfil a spiritual leadership role in the community.

In regards to my research, it the discussion items that pique my interest.

1. It was found that males more aggressively seek school leadership positions with twice as many males (31.9%) as females (14.9%) actively or intending to apply for leadership positions.

2. Wider research (Browne-Ferrigno, 2003; Walker & Kwan, 2009) show that middle aged individuals were most likely to apply for leadership, yet Williams & Morey (2015), found that it was younger <30 years were the highest grouping indicating intention to apply.  A consideration may be to look at findings from Lacey (2003) where in Australia, early career teachers indicated a desire for leadership, after 5 years in the classroom, this was reduced by 50%.   This finding by Lacey (2003) reinforces the statements from Watterston (2015), where she identifies the importance of earlier identification of leaders in Australia.

3. Out of the respondents from this study 13.2% had previously applied for leadership, but now had no intention to re-apply or were uncertain about re-applying.   Could this be due to experiences during the interview process?   Is it that aspirants are unaware of what is really expected of this role and participate in the recruitment process unprepared?  Would a talent management process promote greater resilience through the recruitment process?

Accelerating potential school leaders

Earley and Jones (2011), identify that the regular flow of potential leaders in schools is interrupted and there is a need to consider accelerated leadership development.  However in contrast to commercial organisations, little is known about the methods and experiences in schools.  There is a growing body of evidence around what constitutes effective leadership development.  This is evidenced through the International Study of the Prepration of Principals (ISPP) and the 7 system leadership study (7SLS – https://slideplayer.com/slide/9738221/) and significant amount of work lead by Linda Darling Hammond in the US and the Wallace Foundation.  Earley and Jones (2011) identify that for schools to be learning-centred (Greenhouse Schools – where deputies and other potentials are trained up for principal leadership), schools and principals must identify, nurture and develop leadership potential within their school.  Once identified, support must be implemented in a variety of ways.  These recommendations align with the findings of of the ISPP, and the principles of preparation from Webber & Scott (2013) and Clarke & Wildly (2013).

A personal reflection of my own practice as a leader and a consideration for the leadership development that I employ in my schools is ensuring that I provide potential leaders with the space to try things out and learn from their efforts, encouraging their independence while still being supported and ensuring an environment that enables potential leaders to operate within a no-blame, yet accountable culture of trust and autonomy (Earley & Jones, 2011).