John Mattone: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Mattone, JohnJohn Mattone is known among leaders of Fortune 500 companies as a cutting-edge thinker in the areas of leadership and talent management. He is recognized by the Thinkers 50 as one of the world’s leading management thinkers and by Leadership Excellence magazine as one of the top independent leadership consultants, executive coaches and speakers in the world. His work is featured in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, CEO Magazine, CLO Magazine, CIO Magazine, and other respected global news outlets. He is a trusted advisor and coach to some of the world’s leading organizations and brands, including The CIA, The EPA, FedEx, AgFirst Farm Credit Bank, KPMG, Columbia University, and Navy Federal Credit Union.

John is President of JohnMattonePartners, Inc., a global leadership consulting firm that specializes in executive assessment, development, and coaching. He is a powerful keynote, having addressed more than 500,000 people in over 2000 speeches and seminars throughout the world. He holds a B.S. Degree in Management and Organizational Behavior from Babson College and an M.S. Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida.

His best-selling books include Talent Leadership: A Proven Method for Identifying & Developing High-Potential Employees and, more recently, Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential, published by AMACOM (2013).

Here is Part 2 of my interview of him,

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Morris: When and why did you decide to write Intelligent Leadership?

Mattone: I wrote it on the heels of writing Talent Leadership. That book was written for CEO’s, Senior Teams and HR to help them do a better job identifying and developing current and future leaders.

In fact, when I approached AMACOM over a year ago with my book idea, the two questions Christina Parisi (Executive Editor at AMACOM) asked me were, “Is this book different than other leadership books and how so”? My answer to Christina then, was (1) “yes” and (2) let me show you how. My answer now, four months post-release is, a stronger “YES!” Intelligent Leadership is very different than other leadership books and let me explain why!

There are so many books on leadership, yet there are so few leaders. The demand for great leadership has never been higher. Our government—all governments crave superior leadership. Our schools, our businesses, in fact all our institutions crave superior leadership. Yet, despite the 50,000 books, leadership conferences, training programs, executive education programs, even much of the executive coaching that is happening all over the world, it is my belief we haven’t moved “the needle” enough.

Why is this? It’s because truly becoming a great leader requires a continuous commitment—everyday—not every other day, or every third day, or once a week—but, everyday—to becoming the absolute best you can be.

It’s hard work to truly become the best you can be. Actually, it’s the hardest work you will do in your life. It is my belief that each and everyone one of us possesses the massive potential to become more capable, committed, and aligned today than we were yesterday. In fact, this is what separates truly great leaders from the rest; they possess a passionate and diligent focus on the singular pursuit of becoming the absolute best they can be—everyday.

It is only through the realization of this singular pursuit that great leaders cultivate the same in the people they lead. Great leaders possess what I call the disciplined pursuit of less, not more. But, we live in a world of “more” not “less”. We live in a world of abundance. It is pursued. It is rewarded. Successful organizations seek to get larger, so they acquire. Successful people seek abundance, so they acquire more things. In fact, the fallacy of success is that it is usually the first step to failure. Think about it.

Success brings opportunity. Opportunity brings diffused focus and effort. Diffused focus and effort bring dilution. Dilution brings death. Go back and read Jim Collins first book, “Good to Great”, written in 2001. Some of those companies highlighted in that book, like Enron, no longer exist. And, what about the people who have similarly fallen prey to the same fallacy? — examples include former TYCO CEO Dennis Koslowski, who is behind bars in a New York jail because he embezzled millions of dollars from his former company.

Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo was fired last year for falsifying his resume. Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace has been swift and unforgiving. And, there are hundreds if not thousands of other similar stories of people whom we thought were great leaders, but who, in the end, were not. Most executives who derail “lose their way” either because of innate character flaws or they make a conscious decision to engage in what I call “unleaderlike behavior”.

In all of these instances, they have lost sight of the very essence of what great leadership constitutes and ultimately what can bring “true abundance” to themselves, their families and the organizations they lead—it is only the passionate and diligent focus on becoming the best you can be, that brings true abundance. It is the pursuit of less, not more, that unleashes your potential and the potential of others you lead.

This book is for leaders and future leaders who are truly energized and passionate about becoming the very best leader you can be. Forget your title or the title you aspire to. It’s irrelevant. All of us are potential great leaders. This book will cultivate your heart, mind, and soul so that you are poised to touch the hearts, minds and souls of those with whom you work and live.

Morris: You identify and discuss nine outer-core strategic competencies (18-30). Please explain the reference to Outer-core).

Mattone: The “outer-core” competencies are the skills and competencies that are executed by leaders. People see a leader’s outer-core. The outer-core is measured by a multi-rater survey in terms of how people see you executing the behaviors associated with each competency. There is a difference between a leaders “can do” or capability in the “outer-core” and the perception of how well they execute these competencies in terms of “present performance”. I like to combine both “present performance” measures (such as performance reviews and multi-rater assessments) and “can do” measures (such as simulations) to observe and address what I call discrepancies where a leader may be under-or over-performing in comparison to their potential.

Morris: Which of the nine seems to be most difficult to master? Why?

Mattone: Talent Leadership. If leaders and companies can excel in hiring and promoting the best of the best; if they can benchmark their people and teams on a consistent basis; if they can create dynamic learning environments that stretch people; and if they can truly separate and reward the A players from the B and C players….that is the foundation for unleashing greatness in people, teams and organizations. What I described here….is not easy to do.

Morris: You then identify and discuss six elements of character? In your opinion, which (if any) serves as the foundation for the other five? Please explain.

Mattone: Courage, diligence, gratitude, honesty, loyalty, modesty,

True courage—noble courage, the authentic, spontaneous act of self-sacrificial concern for the defenseless—is not fanaticism but character. Courage is not the feeling of fearlessness. It is rather the willingness of mind necessary to act out of conviction rather than feeling. I have coached many leaders who feel quite fearless but act in sometimes a cowardly manner. Conversely, I have worked with many executives who are fearful yet behave with incredible courage. Great leaders are courageous. It is beyond valor—in fact, heroism and courage are not synonymous, since there are acts of heroism every day that are acts of impulse rather than true character. The measure of true character is consistency—as we all know business heroes, public heroes, sports heroes who were bold enough to make a heroic mark but could not sustain it over time—as they misstep, fall prey to controversy, financial ruin and criminal activity. These people were never truly courageous—only brave at a point in time. Courage is the greatest character element any leader must possess—as it is the catalytic agent that mobilizes every other virtue in the face of crisis. Knowing right from wrong is one thing; taking the right action based on this knowledge is yet another. Courageous leaders inspire their people and teams to achieve incredible new heights—it is the foundation for creating the “will do” and “must do” in people.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, what is an “enneagram” and how does it differ significantly from other psychological assessments?

Mattone: The exact origins of the Enneagram remain unknown. Some trace its origins to Babylon in 2500 BC. The word itself comes from the Greek words ennea, meaning “nine” and gram, meaning “something written or drawn.” Each of the nine points on the Enneagram corresponds to a distinct way of thinking, feeling and behaving. Thus, people at different points on the Enneagram view the world and interact with it differently. The Enneagram continues to be used after thousands of years because of one simple reason: It works. I believe that my first book, Success Yourself (1996) may have been the first book written for business people talking about the Enneagram. The book didn’t sell, honestly, but I continued to refine my ideas and have successfully used the concepts in my executive coaching. I never use the Enneagram by itself. I combine it with other measures such as the CPI 260 and other assessments to yield a more accurate picture of a leader’s strengths and opportunities. That said, the Enneagram is the most accurate and granular of all the assessments I use.

I have expanded the Enneagram into “The Map of Leadership Maturity” to distinguish among the nine distinct leadership traits. Although everyone exhibits an inner core and behavioral tendencies primarily associated with one predominant trait, everyone also demonstrates, to a lesser degree, an inner core and behaviors associated with the other traits.

The main advantage of the Enneagram is that it identifies the strengths relative to the maturity level associated with a leader’s inner core attributes–thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, and behavioral tendencies. The Enneagram correlates with other well-known personality and behavioral assessments that are based on the four-quadrant theory (e.g. Myers-Briggs and DISC). Only by understanding the underlying reasons for your actions can lasting change occur.

The Map of Leadership Maturity (Enneagram) consists of a circle into three main parts, or groupings: Heart Leaders, Head Leaders and Guts Leaders. The reader will see how his or her leadership style is multifaceted, complex, and well beyond simply attaching one overarching label as a means to describing you and how others see you. The purpose is to learn key insights about your leadership style—building your knowledge and skills so that you can more successfully lead different style types.

The Map of Leadership Maturity, a powerful tool that provides you with the framework and roadmap for exploring and distinguishing between the nine distinct predominant traits defining great leadership. The Map is a powerful tool for helping you — the leader or future leader, regardless of level. It helps you gain an understanding of the degree of maturity that you exhibit in the values, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of your own predominant trait, as well as in other eight traits that comprise your unique leadership fingerprint. You will learn that being a successful leader is less a function of your predominant trait and much more a function of the relative maturity with which you evidence your predominant trait — and each of your other eight traits. You will learn specific strategies on how you can strengthen your maturity within all your traits. You will learn specific strategies for building rapport, trust, and credibility with individuals who present a different predominant trait than yours. In addition to learning key insights about their leadership styles, you will build your knowledge and skills so that you can more successfully lead different style types.”

Morris:I commend you on your brilliant use of various exercises throughout the narrative. My own opinion is that, in addition to highlight especially important material, these exercises also enable your reader to become engaged in a process of discovery by interacting with information and insights as well as responding to the questions posed and the initiatives recommended. Is that an accurate assessment> Please explain.

Mattone:  Thank you, Bob, for your very kind words! Yes, the exercises make the material come alive for people.

Morris: As I re-read this book before beginning to formulate questions for this interview, I was again reminded of Howard Gardner’s breakthrough research on multiple intelligences. In Five Minds for the Future, for example, he identifies and explains five separate but related combinations of cognitive abilities that are needed to “thrive in the world during eras to come…[cognitive abilities] which we should develop in the future.” Gardner refers to them as “minds” but they are really mindsets. Intelligent leaders demonstrate all five.

Morris: Let’s say that a CEO has read and then (hopefully) re-read Intelligent Leadership and is now determined to improve and accelerate development of intelligent leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Where to begin?

Mattone:  I suggest Intelligent Leadership training take place. I work with senior teams initially teaching the concepts, then we roll it out in “cohort” fashion in a cascading fashion to all leaders and future leaders. Everyone can benefit from IL training.

Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in Intelligent Leadership, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Please explain.

Mattone:  I think the focus on the “Inner-Core” and the practical developmental suggestions in each chapter for helping leaders become the best they can be.

Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview – but weren’t – and what is your response to it?

Mattone:  I have enjoyed this interview tremendously, Bob. It has been a privilege. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity!

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To read Part 1, please click here.

You can reach John by clicking here.

John cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His firm

His Amazon page






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  1. […] To read Part 2, please click here. […]

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