PurposeInformation and communication technologies (ICT) has an increasing impact on schools. School leaders play a key role in this context as drivers of innovation including those related to ICT. Against this background, the study presented in this article focuses on school leadership and management activities with ICT and related challenges. It sought to analyze how frequently German school principals use ICT compared to principals in other countries, what distinct clusters of German principals could be identified in terms of ICT usage and how principals viewed ICT in schools and related challenges.Design/methodology/approachA mixed-methods approach was chosen, using quantitative data from both the international comparative large-scale assessment study ICILS 2018 and the explorative qualitative data from Germany. For the international comparison, the school principal data sets of the 12 international participants of the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) 2018 were taken into account: Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Portugal, Uruguay and the United States. To look beyond averaged frequencies, a latent class analysis (LCA) was conducted to identify possible clusters of school leaders with distinct usage patterns of ICT for leadership and management activities.FindingsThe results indicate that, in general, German principals use ICT for leadership and management activities on a similar level as their international colleagues. However, they seem to communicate with education authorities significantly more often than their international colleagues, whereas representative activities (presentations, home page) are rather infrequent. The qualitative data point to significant barriers to fully harnessing the potential of using ICT for leadership, management and school improvement such as lack of competencies and lack of adequate support.Originality/valueTo the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that focuses on school leadership and management activities using ICT with such a data set. The results provide insights into how German principals use ICT to lead and manage their schools compared to their international counterparts. The qualitative data offers additional insights into possible reasons hindering a more effective use of ICT.