It is called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS. It’s that part of the brain that kicks in to high gear when you become aware of or focused on something, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. For example, when I wanted a red car, I started seeing red cars all over town. It wasn’t long before I had one, although that’s not always how this function works.

Another example is when I decided to start my own business to develop leadership abilities in others. I had worked in courts and a non-profit for most of my career and didn’t know many consultants. I also wanted to write a book about the transformation that happens when one suffers a significant life experience such as death of spouse, loss of a job, misfortune or serious illness.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and met some new people. Lo and behold! They were independent consultants, speakers, authors of self-help books, and small business owners.

What is so interesting to me about this is that instead of being competitors, we are allies.  We have the same interest in a successful business model.  We share resources and contacts. We talk a lot about what we have in common, rather than trying to shield our competitive advantages; yet, we are free to distinguish our thoughts and ideas and opinions from others’.

I have studied the impact of executive or administrative leaders working with other leaders or professional experts in the same industry  where one does not have authority over the other. The norm is that there is usually a language barrier of sorts – they come from differing positions and have difficulty understanding the needs of the other.  The result is that it becomes very hard work to persuade or lead the other.  The solution is for one side (and preferably both sides) to recognize these distinctive differences and then actively manage the relationship in favor of the goal. The skills needed for this are not same as when there is a supervisory or other power basis.  I saw this when I was a court administrator and worked with judges, or legislators. I always had to keep in mind that their constituents were vitally important to them, their expectations of my role had to be clarified, and our end goal was often the same if we cleared out the mental clutter that got in the way.

What makes my relationships work with my new friends is a potluck of many things.  Some of the more important ones have to do with mutual respect of our stylistic differences, an understanding of where we come from (in terms of education, work experience, client base, etc.), and our strong sense of independence as self-employed business people. This means that we generally share the same approach to leadership activities and responsibilities, and we trade off followership roles, too.  When competition or resistance does show up, we know we have to step back and find out what we don’t know yet that is in our way.

It’s a productive, satisfying way to work.  Less time is forfeited to power struggles, and more time is devoted to progressive measures.  My RAS has been hard at work, and I’m grateful.

If you want more information about Leading Leaders, there is a book by that name that is one of my go-to resources. You’ll find it on the Bibliography that is posted on my Resources page.  Just click here.

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