A VIEW OF THE BRAIN through the lens of leadership

Ever since I can remember I have asked questions, challenged the norm, pried into the dark and light places of my mind, and wondered....


As time passed asking questions began to result in bigger and more complicated answers, some of which I did not enjoy. "No you can not read Watership Down, you are too young." "Yes, you must go to bed. Now." "I am sorry but your hamster died." "I am not sure what you don't understand about this math problem. Did you look at it again?" Suddenly questions lost their excitement and mystery, and they seemed to lead to more disappointment than pleasure. Hard answers and real truths made me take a more observant role in my world. I decided I would stop being a questioner and become an watcher instead.

I watched and I learned. I noticed how others took the lead. How leaders decided what games to play, songs to sing, food to eat. I watched as friend groups were chosen, sleepovers arranged, and who determined what was cool and what was not. Eventually I realized that I actually had a lot to say about the world I lived in and that it was boring being a watcher all the time.


I was in my late teens when I came to the conclusion that I had something to offer. That my thoughts and ideas mattered, and most importantly, that I could, if I really wanted to, effect change. It was time for me to stop being a socially awkward human being and stand up and do something! Thus began my ever evolving foray into the world of a leader.

Go Me!

You might be wondering, how does the brain connect to my beliefs and views on leadership? That is an interesting question...

First of all, as my husband would point out, I am a very literal thinker. Thinking about the human brain as the command center for the human nervous system makes absolute sense. It receives input from the sensory organs and sends output to the muscles.

I view effective leadership in the same way. Leaders receive input from parents, students, teachers, support staff, board administration, the community and send output in the form of decisions, further questions, ideas, and support to the muscles of the school: the staff and students.

Did you know that the brain makes up about 2 percent of a human's body weight but uses 20 percent of its energy? A leader might be small part of the larger school body, but I believe that in order to create a positive and inclusive school climate, they must have a large and energetic presence.


There are about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain. If they were stretched out, they would circle the earth more than four times! Blood vessels are what keep the brain healthy and alive. In order to maintain personal and professional health and a balance between self and work I believe that leaders must make connections to other leaders and mentors and they must maintain connections with the family and friends.

The Varied Roles of A Leader

An effective leader needs to be able to see, hear, react quickly, and think deeply and with an open mind. If one were to juxtapose the roles of a leader with the lobes of the brain it becomes clear how they are connected. A leader is like the frontal lobe because they must be able to focus on an issue and use their judgement to inform their decisions. A leader is like the parietal lobe because they need to be aware of their surroundings. How does their school look and feel? Is their school inclusive and accessible for all people? A leader is like the temporal lobe because they need to listen, share how they are feeling, and remember and learn from their mistakes. Oliver Sacks, British neurologist, naturalist and author says it best, "we see with our eyes, but we see with our brain as well, and what we see with our brain is called imagination." Leaders need to have a vision, they need to be creative, and feel confident imagining possibilities.

Flexible, Always Learning

Finally, as neuroscience has proven, the brain can change and grow. Like the brain leaders need to adopt a growth mindset and be willing to change their perspectives, challenge themselves to engage in current pedagogical practices. Leaders must be able to adapt to the needs of their school community.

The brain is a vast and complicated entity. This "ode" highlights for me the many similarities between leadership and education.


Created with images by Mediocre2010 - "brain" • stux - "thought cloud idea" • alex012 - "eye" • chezbeate - "no feed up people" • Katie@! - "Bored" • jesus-leon.es - "Bored" • hang_in_there - "Leader" • ElisaRiva - "head brain thoughts" • Sam Howzit - "Command Center" • NICHD NIH - "Mouse neurons" • IsaacMao - "Brain"

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