Leadership and the RAS of your brain

Leadership and the RAS of your brain

Leadership and the Brain


Some people are born with an abundance of leadership skills. But most people have some room for improvement. A better understanding of your own brain and its inner workings may help you become a better leader. 

Reticular activating system (RAS).

The RAS is a net of neurons that stretches upwards and downwards throughout the brain. It is centered in a primitive (non thinking) brain area but connects to widespread parts of the brain (including cortex areas responsible for decision making). It resides in the medulla (a part of the brainstem, an area between the brain and spinal cord that controls basic body function). 

The RAS is a relay center of the brain. It serves to filter information and has widespread connections to the thinking part of the brain. The RAS sorts the 100 million impulses that assail the brain each second and deflects the trivial.

The RAS renders a large portion of the cortex (thinking part of the brain) more active and allows you to focus and maintain alertness. It drives your subconscious towards opportunities and gets many disparate parts of the brain working together towards a long term goal. Rather than particular signals, entire concepts filter to cerebral cortex and are then converted into conscious thoughts, emotions or even both. Thus, this is the part of the brain that allows you to capture crucial notions and execute a long term leadership strategy.


Programming the RAS

  How does knowledge of the RAS help you make better decisions? Neurobiological research suggests that we can improve the function of our RAS and thereby elevate leadership skills. Visualization is a powerful tool to improve the function of the RAS.  Scientists have asserted that the RAS can be ‘programmed.’

The RAS is activated by images, whether real or imagined.  By visualizing desired outcomes on a regular basis, you can program the RAS to seek particular images.  Environmental input will be filtered accordingly. Your RAS will focus cerebral attention on information that previously would have been filtered out as irrelevant.  This is one reason why mental rehearsal has been found to be so effective. For example, researchers demonstrated that imagining training exercises is almost as effective as performing the equivalent exercises.  In one 2004 study, researchers assigned half of 30 volunteers to physically train their little fingers. They increased strength by 53%. The other group imagined doing the same training and increased strength nearly as much, 35%.