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Purpose: This review study aims to bridge neuroscience and educational leadership by exploring the neural mechanisms of the constructs relevant to educational leadership.

Research Methods: The reviewed literature includes 69 neuroscience studies and 4 books on neuroscience. The brain activities and neurotransmitters associated with the constructs pertinent to educational leadership were coded to bridge the knowledge base of neuroscience and educational leadership.

Findings: The neural mechanisms of the constructs related to educational leadership (e.g., vision, charisma, trust, and organizational justice) were organized by four different leadership approaches: charismatic, transformational, destructive, and culturally responsive school leadership. Emotions are the common thread weaving through all four leadership approaches.

Implications: This study has salient theoretical, methodological, and practical implications for educational leadership. Theoretically, the findings not only accentuate the role of emotions in educational leadership, but also reveal the trade-off between emotions and analytical calculation in leaders’ decision making. Methodologically, the neuroscience methods (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, quantitative electroencephalography, and hormonal analysis) add to the methodological repertoire of educational leadership research. Practically, the findings warrant the emotion training and present the potential of using neurological measurements in school leadership preparation and professional development.


Originally published in:

Wang, Y. (2019). Pulling at your heartstrings: Examining four leadership approaches from the neuroscience perspective. Educational Administration Quarterly, 55(2), 328-359.