John Mattone

Think big and different

Executive coach John Mattone shares lessons from working with Apple’s Steve Jobs.

August 10, 2021

John Mattone distills leadership into a straightforward but challenging quality: the ability to touch hearts and minds.

Mattone, an author and executive coach, offers insights from his work with the late Apple co-founder/CEO Steve Jobs, as well as leaders’ experience with the pandemic.

“The past year and a half reinforced that we must embrace the people-centric concept; role modeling and embedding it in our executive teams and employees,” Mattone says. “That will be important for us to successfully navigate the future.”

He recalls Jobs saying Apple’s success had nothing to do with computers but everything to do with customers. 

“Steve Jobs was a change agent,” Mattone says. “He was literally put on earth to change the world.”

In fact, “putting a dent in the universe” was part of Jobs’ personal mission statement, he says. 

At the same time, Jobs understood that operating success did not happen magically but was a function of three leading indicators: management, talent, and culture.

It’s the same in credit unions, Mattone says. “Great leadership, great talent, and great culture ignite sustained operating success.”

Apple’s 1997 “Think different” advertising campaign was a landmark in the business and technology worlds. The message of that campaign was personal to Jobs, Mattone says, and the visionary made a big splash in announcing the campaign on his return to Apple.

What made Jobs such a dynamic speaker and leader was that he spoke from the heart, Mattone says.

‘Great leadership, great talent, and great culture ignite sustained operating success.’
John Mattone

Jobs once told him, “You’ll never go anywhere if you don’t think big and if you think the same as everyone else.”

At the same time, Mattone advises leaders to proceed with a “quiet confidence and courage” fed from looking inward to identify their gifts and talents. 

“Ultimately it’s about leveraging those gifts and strengths so they’re stronger tomorrow than they are today,” he says. 

Mattone acknowledges this requires a level of vulnerability that top executives, who are typically driven and confident people, find difficult to surrender to.

“That’s a lot of the work I do as an executive coach—working with people on sensitivity and vulnerability,” he says. “But if you’re authentic in sharing it’s unbelievable what happens.”

Collaboration and communication, for example, improve with authenticity. 

“We’re not missing a shortage of intellect; we have a shortage of heart,” Mattone says. “The curve on leadership is lagging the intellectual curve. What’s missing is the courage to show people your heart; that you care for them.”

At the same time, leaders should be proud of their gifts from both a personal and organizational standpoint. He says maintaining gifts and strengths can be even more challenging than developing them.

“Don’t take your gifts and strengths for granted,” Mattone says. “Understand what they are.”

Mattone addressed the CUNA CEO Council virtual event, “Through the Leadership Lens Series: Successful Leadership in a Disruptive World.”