Interview with John Mattone: World’s #1 leadership and culture authority

Interview with John Mattone – world’s #1 authority on Leadership and Culture

John Mattone

Q: How did you develop a deep interest in leadership and culture?

John Mattone: Here is how I became interested in Leadership and Culture: I completed my Graduate studies in Industrial Psychology in 1980 and then worked for Conoco. During teaching assistantship, I taught an Undergraduate class. This is when I started to discover my passion for teaching. I got great feedback and loved the process.

This is when I started to get the belief that “I can do this”. As part of my work experience at Conoco, I started conducting training workshops. During this time, I was deeply moved by a session conducted by Zig Ziglar and it strengthened my belief that I could be just as good. Then I started doing executive coaching and discovered that building leaders is where my passion is.

I am passionate about the process of coaching that makes leaders stronger. This happens when their gut, heart, emotions and passions are involved. I love the coaching process.


What are the key messages in the book Cultural Transformations?

Understanding elements of corporate cultureJohn Mattone: The key message is that in order to get the operative imperative right, two things are critically important.

No enterprise can succeed unless it gets these two things correct: 1) Leadership 2) Culture.

Leadership involves building the top team of 7-8 and then their next level – which is another 20-30 people. Unless the top leadership team is strong, it cannot succeed. This is of paramount importance.

The second is culture. I am interested in developing culture that supports the operating imperative. Collaboration is the bridge.

How did the book come about?

John Mattone: After I wrote the book Intelligent Leadership, I got involved in working with leaders on executive coaching. During these conversations, the topic of “culture” started increasingly coming up. At this time I wanted to talk to people who are CEOs and have grown really successful enterprises but may not be “rockstar” like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. I wanted to discover how they were building excellence and what they were doing in their companies that is exceptional and then present to the world so that these CEOs could be more accessible and serve as role models and mentors to others.

Explain about the “can do” / “must do” / “will do” cultures and how they interplay with each other?

John Mattone: I think of it as an airplane model with four engines. Talent, deployment, development and measurement are the four engines that drive the culture.

“Can do” is the belief.

“Will do” is the passion.

“Must do” is the alignment.

Six steps to transforming cultureThese are the three different and distinct cultures that drive the talent systems.

They are related and in my consulting work we measure the strength of each. In terms of diagnostic it seems that the “will do” can be strengthened to the extent that “can do” and “must do” can be strengthened.

In other words, “will do” (passion) is a result of the other two. While it seems that some people are just built to be more passionate – almost a genetic trait, actually the “can do” and “must do” cultures drive passion.

How do you summarise your life’s work?

John Mattone: I have learnt that ‘never take anything for granted’. We evolve as we grow and our passions and drives become mature. We may not have seen at a young age how they would turn out and might have been more driven by fame and success. Now, I think that something magical happened on the way and recognize the opportunity to make a huge difference in every life.

I really care about the value I bring to the world in all of my work. At the end of the day when I am done, I would like to be seen by the value and abundance I have brought to leaders I have worked with, that I have moved the needle in a way that made people more centered and help them to contribute more.

The people that I work with and my family – I would like them to feel and experience the difference that I have made.

How important is it for leaders to manage their inner selves?

Inner and cout core of leadership - John MattoneJohn Mattone: I call this “inner core” and it is huge. My executive coaching is focused on building the inner core – its health and vibrancy and to measure maturity. It is measured by self concept, values, character, thinking patterns and emotional make-up.

Greatness in outer core (behavior) is driven by strength in the inner core.

Tell us more about what your executive coaching focuses on?

Coaching provides an opportunity to go into depth, build partnerships, trust and it is a two process. Coaching serves as a fuel to achieve results and drive value.

What is next in your journey?

John Mattone: I have realised that I am sitting on huge portfolio of assessments that I would like to bring to a wider audience through my website.

I would also like to work on a book continuing from Intelligent Leadership, generalising its principles and focusing on young people – high school and college kids.

iSharad - Leadership and Career Success

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Sharad Verma is currently HR Head (CHRO) for Sears Holdings India.

Sharad’s blog on leadership, talent and innovation is available at Sharad has been named one of the Top 20 Social Media HR Influencers by SHRM, featured as one of the Best HR Heads in India and his column featured in the top 5 most read career advice on Star career website.

A graduate of the prestigious XLRI, Sharad has more than two decades of HR experience. He has previously been Global Head – Human Resources for Polaris Consulting & Services Ltd, Director, Human Resources for SunGard Global Technology, Head of Human Resources for Berkadia (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway),, and The Bank of New York Mellon India.

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