Leadership at the World Business Forum

In a special edition of the Brand Storytelling podcast, we talk to John Mattone about his keynote at the World Business Forum, his education and closing the gap on leadership.

Listen to the full show and read below for a preview of John’s insights.  

The following is an excerpt from the Brand Storytelling podcast. Available on iTunes,  Soundcloud, and selected Android apps


Rakhal Ebeli: I heard you speak about and you gave some great insights at the top of the show, but how do you define leadership in 2016?

John Mattone: I define it, Rakhal, I think a little bit different probably than a lot of books out there. When I wrote Intelligent Leadership in 2013 and I followed up with this book this year, my approach is that it’s all about the inner core. It’s all about the elements that often we don’t want to come to grips with, we don’t want to take a look at, we don’t want to deal with, because inside of us, there’s often a lot of pain. A lot of executives are uncomfortable going there, but if we could make tweaks and adjustments in terms of how people view themselves, what is your self-concept? If it’s strong and vibrant, that’s a good thing.

I think the second thing is what about your values that are driving you? Are your values correct? Are you operating with the wrong values? Maybe you put too much focus in on power and money as opposed to being altruistic. We got to make that adjustment. Thinking patterns, those have got to be correct. Emotional makeup. All of that. Your thinking patterns will drive your emotional makeup. Your emotional makeup will drive your behavior. Behavior will drive results. We start here. If your mindset’s not correct, you’re not going to generate good results. That’s why a lot of companies are failing with transformation efforts. It’s happening.

Rakhal: You talk about that domino effect and ultimately your character that defines your future. What can people and brands do to define themselves through content, through marketing, through material, through books?

John: I think the presence in the branding, whether it’s a big company or a small company, you’ve got to come to grips with the essence of not who you are think it’s more important to define, and most companies never get there. Most brands never get there, but I think it’s a worthy pursuit. When we think about the question about not what we want to become, Rakhal. It’s not about what we want to become. Same thing with each and every one of us individually and same thing with our families. Who cares? The more important question is what must we become? What must our vision be? In light of all the difficulty and complexity in the world, what must our vision be? That’s why great CEOs are very few and far between.

Rakhal: Does that mean you’re talking about future pacing?

John: In many respects. It’s not only defining what must our vision be. It all re-translates from there, what must our strategy, what must our structure be? What must our systems be? All of it re-translates. In my experiences that, whether it’s an entrepreneurial company or a big-time company, that the senior team if they’re not concrete about the must state and why that must state has got to be, it’s going to be very difficult for the team to follow.

Rakhal: You mentioned that your work, your definitive work, is to close the gap on leadership by big thinking. I really love that point about big thinking not being just spreadsheets and big data. What do you mean by closing the gap on leadership?

John: I just don’t think we have enough good leaders out there. It is a bell-shaped curve. We need to do what we’ve done with intelligence. We have a skewed distribution. Most companies hire pretty intelligent people. The critical thinking skills tend to be there, but in terms of leadership, there’s more variability. That’s a problem because the variability doesn’t help with all the complexity. I think it’s important. Actually, I think it’s a non-negotiable that senior leadership teams start with themselves. Many don’t. That’s a problem. One of the big reasons we have gaps is senior executive teams and CEOs often are unwilling to get rid of their other fellow CEOs, C-Suite executives because of their gaps. But it starts there. If you’ve got weakness in the C-Suite, you’re going to have weakness in your organization. It all rolls.