November 2016

November 2016

Updated by
Eric Mahmoud

My understanding of leadership has changed since I’ve become a Bush Fellow. I use to think that a leader was basically the one in charge of a particular domain.  I thought that the leader directs people to get things done.

I’ve come to the understanding over the past year as a Bush Fellow, that the leader is an Influencer. Sometimes the influence is indirect. For instance, the influence of a leader can be through a book that he or she wrote. The work of Mahatma Gandhi influenced and inspired Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King never met Gandhi, yet Gandhi had an incredible influence on Dr. Kings work. Most of the time the influence of a person is direct. This influence can be achieved through positional power, coaching, inspiring or being democratic.

Positional Power

Based on a leader’s position in an organization, government or community, their title can provide enough influence on the people  that work for them or are directed by them.  This is typically not enough to sustain the kind of influence needed on a long term basis.  There needs to be personal power or influence applied to get work done over a long period of time.

The following are a few different forms of personal power or influence.


I have learned to use this method of influence most effectively as a Bush Fellow.  First as a coach, I’m constantly trying to increase the performance of my direct reports so they can then go out and make a greater impact on the organization.

The first way that I’ve learned to influence through coaching leaders is to utilize our weekly “check in” meetings as coaching sessions.  I have a check-in once per week with everyone that reports to me.  There are organizational priorities that are set at the beginning of the school year.  Our organization priorities that we selected for the 2016-2017 school year are; increasing academic achievement; improving adult and student culture and fiscal responsibility.

The yearly priorities/goals are then broken down into three-month priorities.  Within each month there are tasks associated with each priority that is listed.  From these tasks, there are weekly goals that are set.  My role as a manager is to be an accountability partner or coach that’s providing constant feedback to my direct reports on the priorities that have been set. I’m probing for are they the right priorities?  Are the weekly goals actually driving the direct report’s work toward the three month priorities?  I learned this strategy as a Bush Fellow in a workshop and book entitled The Together Leader. In addition to influencing my direct reports by helping them to manage their time in such a way to get a greater return on investment, I also learned through my Bush Fellowship how to influence people by understanding their needs.

At an Anthony Robbins Leadership Academy in 2015, I learned that there are six human needs;

  1. Certainty – Everyone feels a need for some consistency in their lives.  Whether that consistency is in their job or at home.  Consistent routines such as working out on a daily basis can bring certainty to their lives.
  2. Uncertainty or variety – Although people are looking for things that are routine and bring consistency, they are also looking for variety or adventure.  This may come in the form of taking on a bold and new project at work or running a marathon for the first time.  Variety is truly the “spice of life”.
  3. Significance – Everyone wants to feel a sense of significance in their lives.  They want to feel that their life is meaningful not just for themselves, but for other people.  Significance can be both positive and negative.  People can feel significant by what they own, like cars, homes or even a business.  People can also feel significant from what they do for other people like volunteering.  People can also feel significance by making people feel bad or even hurting other people.
  4. Love and Connection – Most people want some kind of connection with other people, whether those connections are through friendships or kindship, they want to feel a bond to other people.
  5. Contribution – This is a driver for many people.  How can they contribute to others?  Whether it is in their time or their treasure.  Whether it is as a Big Brother  or Big Sister for children.Whether  it is someone like Prince who anonymously contributes large sums of money and not wanting any recognition in return.
  6. Growth – Everyone has a desire to get better or improve in anything that they do.  For some this is a guiding principle and permeates everything that they do.  For others, they desire to grow and get better, but they don’t have a plan to make that happen.

Everyone has all these six human needs to some degree, but for most people certain needs have a higher priority. For instance, to some people significance is their most important need.  They want to make a contribution or be recognized for doing something that had significant  impact or appears to have high impact on other.

If we understand which one of the six human needs is the primary motivator for a person, then this gives us an idea of how to influence them.  For instance, if a person is motivated by certainty, then bringing a proposal that has a great deal of uncertainty or risk will turn them off completely.  On the other hand, if you know that variety or adventure is an important driver for one of your direct report, then framing an assignment with your direct report in a way that sounds adventurous and exciting despite the risk is a much more effective way to frame the discussion to have the greatest influence over the direct report. Leading is ultimately about influence.

Self-care is critical to a leader’s longevity.  How we condition ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually is extremely important.  I have always done a good job in watching what I eat, making sure that my diet, for most part contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I also have a very consistent exercise regimen.  I do a great deal of running and biking everyday.  I lift weights four time per week.  The area that I’m significantly deficient in is sleep.  As part of my Bush Fellowship, I’m looking at doing some cognitive behavior therapy to address my inability to sleep.

Lastly, I’m also interested using my Bush Fellowship to explore Transcendental Meditation(TM) as a form of self-care. TM provides a way to reduces stress and increase focus. I’m looking forward to studying this form of self-care.