Unveiling the Secrets of Great Leadership with Roberta Mattison

In my 3rd podcast episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Roberta Mattison, a renowned LinkedIn top voice in workplace and leadership. Roberta shared profound insights on how good leaders can transform into great ones. Her emphasis on authenticity, transparency, and listening resonates deeply with the challenges and opportunities leaders face today. Whether you’re leading a small startup or a large corporation, these principles are universally applicable and critical for effective leadership.

The Cornerstones of Great Leadership

Roberta Mattison emphasized that authenticity, transparency, and listening are the bedrock of great leadership. Authenticity involves being true to oneself and one’s values, which fosters trust and respect among team members. Transparency, on the other hand, is about being open and honest, which helps in building a culture of trust and accountability. Listening, as Roberta pointed out, is perhaps the most underrated yet most powerful tool a leader can wield. “Great leaders listen, right? They do more listening than talking,” she remarked, highlighting that understanding and addressing team members’ concerns can lead to more cohesive and motivated teams.

Navigating Challenges and Opportunities

The episode delved into the varying challenges and opportunities for leadership development across different company sizes. In smaller companies, leaders often face the challenge of wearing multiple hats and dealing with limited resources. However, this can also be an opportunity to foster close-knit teams and drive innovation with agility. In larger organizations, the challenges often lie in maintaining alignment and managing complex hierarchies, but the opportunities include access to greater resources and the ability to implement large-scale changes. Roberta’s insights provide a nuanced understanding of these dynamics, encouraging leaders to adapt their strategies accordingly.

Mastering the Art of Delegation

Effective delegation is crucial for leadership success, and Roberta offered valuable strategies to master this art. Delegation involves not just assigning tasks but also empowering team members by trusting them and avoiding micromanagement. This not only enhances productivity but also fosters a sense of ownership and growth among team members. Roberta underscored that leaders must be willing to let go and trust their teams to execute tasks efficiently, which in turn, allows leaders to focus on strategic initiatives.

Embracing Change and Managing Up

Navigating periods of transformation is a critical skill for leaders, and Roberta highlighted the importance of embracing change and being flexible. She also discussed the concept of “managing up,” which involves effectively communicating and aligning with one’s superiors to ensure mutual goals are met. “If you don’t manage up, you’re not going to have to worry about managing down because you’re not going to have a job,” she quipped, emphasizing that managing up is crucial for long-term success.

Developing Leadership Skills

Roberta provided actionable steps for aspiring leaders to develop their skills. She suggested taking on high-profile projects, joining professional associations, and volunteering for leadership roles as practical ways to gain experience and visibility. These steps not only build competence but also help in expanding one’s professional network. Roberta’s advice is particularly valuable for emerging leaders looking to carve out their path in today’s competitive landscape.

The Future of Leadership

The conversation concluded with a discussion on the future of leadership. Roberta noted that the future will demand leaders who can multitask effectively and hire the right people. As middle management roles are being streamlined, leaders will need to manage larger teams and take on more responsibilities. Perception, she noted, plays a significant role in management, as how leaders are perceived can impact their ability to lead effectively.

Final Thoughts

This episode with Roberta Mattison is a treasure trove of wisdom for anyone looking to enhance their leadership skills. From the importance of authenticity and transparency to the nuances of managing up and preparing for the future of leadership, the insights shared are both profound and practical. As Roberta highlighted, great leadership is about continuous learning and adapting, ensuring that leaders are always prepared to navigate the complexities of their roles with confidence and competence.


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Authenticity, transparency, and listening are key characteristics of great leaders.
Challenges and opportunities for leadership development differ between large and small companies.
Effective delegation involves trust and letting go of micromanaging.
Navigating change requires embracing it and being flexible.
Managing up is crucial for long-term success as a leader.
Actionable steps for developing leadership skills include taking on high-profile projects, joining associations, and volunteering for leadership roles.
Perception plays a significant role in management.
The future of leadership will require multitasking and hiring the right people.


Mary (00:00.957)
Roberta Mattresson, welcome to Recruiting Insider.

Roberta (00:13.23)
Thank you, Mary. Thanks so much for having me.

Mary (00:15.637)
Roberta, the talent maximizer, is a LinkedIn top voice in workplace and leadership. For more than 25 years, she’s helped leaders achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She’s worked with many highly regarded companies, including General Motors, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, as well as a lot of small to mid-sized companies.

She’s also the author of seven books and has done some major interviews, including a guest appearance on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. Today, we’re going to discuss how good leaders can become great leaders. Roberta, you spent over 25 years helping leaders reach their full potential. What initially drew you to this field and what keeps you passionate about it after all of this time?

Roberta (01:05.594)
Well, what drew me to the field was the fact that at the age of 24, I was suddenly in charge and I was in management. And as a result of that experience and really not having much in terms of guidance, I quickly learned that maybe I wasn’t such a great leader and that everyone really deserves to have a great leader. And so I have now made it my mission to make sure

Nobody has a leader like I was.

Mary (01:54.614)
Your experience spans across Fortune 500 companies like General Motors and Microsoft, as well as smaller businesses. So how do the challenges and opportunities for leadership development different between those environments?

Roberta (02:07.902)
Well, I honestly don’t think that the challenges differ at all. However, the opportunities for leadership development do. Companies like…

you know, my client General Motors, Best Buy, companies like that, they definitely have the resources to develop their leaders, as opposed to some of the smaller companies that I work with, who their bank accounts aren’t as large. So it definitely, I think you often get a different kind of leader when you’re working in a large organization, because hopefully they have had the support and the guidance. That doesn’t mean they’re great leaders, but.

The odds sometimes are a little better.

Mary (02:51.541)
Do you go in and build professional development programs in these companies? And does that differ between a small company and a larger company?

Roberta (03:04.542)
Well, I have gone in and done that, but most of the work I do today is more in an advisory role and also as an executive coach.

I do group coaching for, I call them leadership development circles, where we bring in leaders who are at the same level in the organization, and we create this safe environment for them to really have deep conversations about what they’re experiencing as leaders and how to be better leaders. So it really depends. My consulting assignments really differ a lot.

I’m also very fortunate in that I’m at a place in my career where, you know, if I don’t really feel like a company is fully invested, and they’re just kind of doing this to check a box, then I politely bow out.

Mary (03:56.033)
Absolutely. It’s for the better of the entire organizational culture to turn those good leaders into great leaders. And I would imagine it also takes a lot of self-reflection for those leaders to really step into their own and figure out how to really impact teams and impact the company as a whole.

Roberta (04:14.854)
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting because I really only work with people who want to get better. Because I have learned over the years that you cannot help people who don’t want to be helped. And you know, I like many, like many executive coaches. I mean, I bang my head against the wall, you know, trying to take this person who clearly doesn’t want the help or you know, is doing it because their boss says they have to do it. And the results, you know, they’re not there.

Mary (04:20.084)

Roberta (04:42.846)
And it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for them. It’s frustrating for me. So again, now I’m very selective as to the people that I will work with.

Mary (04:52.629)
How do you identify those people that actually want to learn from you and become better?

Roberta (04:58.742)
Well, through conversations, I mean, it’s pretty obvious when you ask questions to these people, you know, whether or not they’re really in it for the right reasons, or it’s well, my boss told me I have to work with a coach. Okay, well, that’s not going to work unless we really like go down a few layers and say, well, do you think your boss is right? Is this something you really want to pursue? Or are you just trying to make your boss happy?

Mary (05:24.713)
That’s interesting. So do you have that conversation anytime you step into a consulting, to do some consulting, to really dig in, to figure out if they want to change and learn and grow in that way?

Roberta (05:37.034)
Well, yeah, I mean, I’m always pushing my clients to be better. It’s interesting because just this week, you know, I had an opportunity to go in and do a training program on helping leaders select for success. And and I honestly, I believe that the only way to learn how to interview effectively and some of your listeners may push back. And I’m fine with that is to do it in person. I don’t see it’s.

It’s sort of like you trying to teach me how to ride a bike. Like right now. Okay, like how’s this gonna work? I’m watching your video. I’m also on the road and I’m also like falling over at the same time. And so I just said, you know, I understand your need to do this remotely, because you have people all over the country. But I’m not the right person for this, because that doesn’t align with what I see in terms of the results that you want to get.

So I think, you know, I think it’s important for those of us who are in these roles of advising organizations that, you know, if we don’t think something’s going to work, it doesn’t matter how much they’re willing to pay us. I think, you know, at least the ethical people I know will step back and say, you know, sorry, thank you very much, but I’m not your person.

Mary (06:57.709)
And I agree with the face-to-face interviews. There’s a lot that you can learn through video. You can go on YouTube and you can learn how to code, but it’s really hard to get some of those social cues when you’re on video with someone. Those are things that you can really see and catch when you’re face-to-face with somebody, but it’s a lot more difficult to do on video.

Roberta (07:11.202)

Roberta (07:21.838)
Right and it I mean I have done it I did it during covid but then it made sense not it made sense because the way the organizations were all interviewing was remotely so if you and I were you know if I were teaching you how to select for success and I saw that you know you were literally because this did happen in one of my sessions you were literally in the dark and I could not see your face I would be able to say to you hey Mary by the way the person you’re

Can you get some lighting in there? But in this situation, people are, their organization, everybody’s back in the office. So these interviews are going to be done in person. So I just felt like this isn’t gonna work.

Mary (08:05.373)
In your experience, what are the key characteristics that differentiate good leaders from great leaders?

Roberta (08:11.958)
Well, I think a lot of it comes down to being authentic and not trying to be a carbon copy of your boss, who you may think is a great leader, but everyone else doesn’t. I think great leaders are transparent. They’re honest with their people, even if they have to say, I don’t know. Let me get back to you and then actually get back to people. Great leaders have what I call this magnetism, which is what I write about in my book, The Magnetic Leader.

And I also write about it in my latest book that just came out a few weeks ago, the third edition is suddenly in charge. Great leaders listen, right? They do more listening than talking. There’s a whole list.

Mary (08:57.577)
So how do you help them step into their authentic selves?

Roberta (09:01.746)
Well, I help them identify like what’s getting in their way, right? If people don’t trust them, how, why is that? And the only way for me to find that out is to do what we call a 360 where I interview people that they give me who they would like to get feedback from, as well as people, maybe below them in the organization, above them, depending on what they feel like the situation is that we really want to, um, take care of and improve.

Mary (09:32.041)
And it feels like a lot of really great leaders are just super charismatic. Is that something that you can teach? And if so, how would you teach something like that?

Roberta (09:42.35)
I’m not so sure that charisma can be taught, but I mean, there are ways to be more approachable. There are ways to be more likable. I do agree with you though. There are, I mean, there are definitely leaders who are charismatic. Are they good leaders? Not always, right? Because they’re going to tell you whatever they want to tell you and like not follow through or, you know, they’re just blowing a lot of smoke. But

I think there are definitely ways that you can improve your communication and the way others perceive you. But you first have to find out what that perception is.

Mary (10:21.001)
Are there any specific exercises that somebody could go through that, you know, if they want to be a more approachable leader, you know, is there something tangible steps that they could take today to grow into that?

Roberta (10:34.346)
Well, I think that they may have to first make that commitment and then start to read some books. I mean, just read some books about well respected leaders and they may not necessarily be business books, they might be biographies, you know, about some of the best leaders in the world. That’s one thing that they can do. Another thing, if they have a good relationship with a co worker or their people, they can just ask them and just say,

You know if there were one thing that you wish that I would do differently what would that be. You know rather than putting them on the spot and say hey how am I as a leader oh you’re the best you know you’re great.

Mary (11:15.017)
So many leaders struggle with delegation. Can you share some strategies that leaders can use to effectively delegate tasks and really empower their teams in that way?

Roberta (11:26.15)
Well, I think a lot of delegation and the people who don’t delegate that comes down to in many cases, micromanaging and mistrust. Like you don’t really believe that anybody else can do whatever it is that needs to be done better than you. And what winds up happening is you have way too much on your plate. And so you wind up just being very heads down constantly just working on, you know, tasks when in fact, the most successful leaders that I know.

manage up, which is against my new book talks all about how to manage up, how to manage your boss, how to manage your relationships. And you do this so that you can get your people the resources they need to be successful. So, you know, a little less time, you know, hoarding the work in a little more time relationship building will make a huge difference in how successful you are as a leader.

Mary (12:24.405)
So change is obviously constant in business. How can leaders really navigate these periods of transformation while still keeping their teams motivated and engaged?

Roberta (12:36.394)
Well, I think we have to recognize that you’re right, change is inevitable. It’s happening every day. So it’s not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace. I think if we were all doing the same kind of work every single day that we’ve been doing for the last three years, five, 10, 20 years, we’d be bored out of our minds. So I think it’s important to really embrace change and make sure that the people that you’re hiring, they’re flexible, right? They’re not like, oh no.

You know, we’re still going to use typewriters because, because that’s what I learned how to type on.

Mary (13:14.305)
I would imagine huge companies that you work with like Microsoft, I mean, they’re always constantly changing and evolving. Are there any examples where you’ve worked with leaders within, you know, one of those big companies and really helped them navigate their teams through those changes?

Roberta (13:32.01)
Well, let me think about that. Yeah. I mean, there’ve been situations where I just finished up working with a chief people officer of an organization that has gone through a huge transformation. And she was having herself some challenges letting go of really reassessing her staff. And are these the right people who are going to go on this new journey?

And how am I going to support the executive team in the decisions that they’re making? So it was interesting because, you know, here she is, head of HR and you would think, oh, she’s got this all down. And in fact, you know, working together, I was delighted to see as we were winding up our work together, you know, her transformation, she was just much more open.

and didn’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. Like maybe upgrading her talent might actually allow her to work at a higher level. So whenever I work with people, I always try to look at why is it in their best interest to change? Like what’s in it for them? And for her, it was just really making sure that her life was a lot easier and she had a lot less stress and she got to do way more interesting work.

Mary (14:57.985)
I would imagine it is really hard to let team members go or really try to figure out what team you could put together that could be the most effective for you because you do build these really strong relationships with your team. So I would imagine it is hard to have that difficult conversation with them that, hey, you’re not a great fit or, hey, you need to upskill in these areas so that we can really evolve together.

Roberta (15:28.138)
Well, it’s, it can be challenging, which is why I wrote the book Can We Talk about difficult work conversations. But you know, you sort of have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you have to ask yourself, you know, wouldn’t I rather know, because like I one time had a boss say the following to me, Roberta, you are not meeting my expectations, followed by

Mary (15:32.289)

Roberta (15:55.842)
However, I’m not sure I ever told you what they were. And it took everything I had not to like laugh in her face. And I just thought to myself, this is really fascinating. She went to Harvard. They may have taught mind reading there. I only went to Northeastern. We didn’t get that course. We were busy working co-op jobs. So, you know, how did this happen?

Mary (15:59.453)

Roberta (16:23.883)
But clearly I couldn’t read her mind and I couldn’t improve because she never told me what she wanted.

Mary (16:32.221)
So if you’re my manager and I’m not meeting your expectations, how would you approach me?

Roberta (16:39.042)
I would say Mary, we need to talk or as I wrote, can we talk? And then I would sit down and I would just say to you, you know, you’re not meeting my expectations by that I mean, and then I would be very specific. I wouldn’t just say, oh, you know, your work isn’t, you know, you’re making too many mistakes. What does that mean?

Like, you know, I would give you some specifics. Lately, you’ve been making a lot of mistakes. By that I mean, here are three errors that came through within the last two days. And these are critical errors because we work in finance and I need to know what’s going on. You know, is there something going on at home? Is there a problem? Are you getting information? You know, are people feeding you the wrong information? What’s happening here?

And then I would tell you what I expect. I would expect that you would proofread your work. And by that I mean it will come to me with no errors. And if that means sending it to two or three of your colleagues, have at it. Or coming to me if you can’t figure out my directions. Like I’d be very specific.

Mary (17:52.001)
That’s perfect, because that helps me understand exactly what I did wrong. You have the tangible examples. You mentioned maybe there’s something with my home life, so I feel supported both personally and professionally, and then you offer your support to help me upskill and get better and meet those expectations.

Roberta (18:14.538)
Well, I’m trying to help you and you know, if you want to be helped, you’ll take that under advisement and you’ll make some changes. If you don’t want to be helped, you’re not going to be with me much longer.

Mary (18:26.437)
So let’s talk about some common pitfalls that leaders encounter. What’s one piece of advice that you give the most often to leaders who are looking to improve?

Roberta (18:37.038)
I tell them if you don’t manage up, you’re not going to have to worry about managing down because you’re not going to have a job. So if you don’t manage your boss and your boss’s boss and the colleagues of your around you, you’re going to not be in this role very long.

Mary (18:55.829)
Could you give an example of a leader who implemented this advice and what was the outcome?

Roberta (19:01.434)
Yeah, it’s interesting. I was facilitating a session with the CEO of a major hospital here in the Boston area. And his executive team was around the table and he was at the end of the table, you know, sitting back like this. And when I said this, I said, see that guy down at the end and he’s everybody’s like, yeah, and they all look at him. I know he wants you to manage him. And he’s like this.

You know like yes you people need to manage me right and these are senior executives and you know as a result of those conversations he reported back that there were several of his people who started to manage him some of them didn’t get it. And i’m gonna guess that those are the ones who are no longer there because soon thereafter that meeting there were some decisions made. But those who did get it you know got on board really fast.

Mary (20:00.161)
So many listeners might be aspiring leaders themselves. So what are some actionable steps that they can take today to really start developing their leadership skills?

Roberta (20:10.69)
Well, I think they can volunteer to take on high profile projects at work. They can ask to be on committees where they’re getting high visibility. They can, um, join associations and take, you know, take roles in those associations that are leadership roles so that when they’re looking to make their next move, they can put down that they were, you know, head of development for.

this association or they were head of membership or something demonstrating that they have leadership traits.

Mary (20:43.681)
Absolutely, and I think they could probably do that internally within their own company as well, volunteering to take on special projects or initiatives that might help them gain those leadership skills.

Roberta (20:54.09)
Yeah, it’s interesting that you should say that because I was speaking to a woman who’s at Sony pictures and she works and she works in finance and she’s like, well, I’m in charge of the emerging leaders program like the. You know the groups that they put together so i’m like well, how’d you get there. Well, somebody told me about these groups and then I decided to join one and the next thing I know I was like elected.

Mary (21:16.233)

Roberta (21:23.29)
I think, you know, she might she’s young woman maybe in her late 20s, but here she is in a highly visible role You know leading this group within her organization to help emerging leaders

Mary (21:38.425)
Yeah, it seems like if you, especially at some of those big companies, if you search internally, there are a lot of opportunities that you might run into that could really help you hone those leadership skills.

Roberta (21:49.907)
Yes, absolutely.

Mary (21:51.785)
So looking ahead, what do you see as some emerging trends in leadership development?

Roberta (21:58.954)
Well, unfortunately, one of the trends that I’m seeing is that there’s a lot of elimination of middle managers and those roles. And so it’s going to get harder for those people who want to move into management roles to get those roles because there will be fewer of them. And that goes back to, again, managing up and having those relationships so that when an opportunity comes up and, you know, your boss and the rest of his team.

are sitting around the room and they go, what about that woman, Mary? Wouldn’t she be good for this job? You know, we did a project with her when she was leading, you know, this our latest fundraiser for the charity we support. She was amazing. As opposed to Susie over here who nobody’s ever met, no one’s ever seen, but she’s applying. So it’s really making sure that you are out there and you’re very visible in your organization so that when these opportunities come up.

you’re an obvious choice.

Mary (23:00.597)
So what are some skills that will be the most important for future leaders?

Roberta (23:06.198)
Well, I think the skill of being able to multitask because if we’re going to be eliminating all these middle management roles, which seems to be a trend right now, you’re gonna have a lot more people under you if you are in a management role. And that’s gonna require that you get really good at what you brought up earlier, delegation, you know, and really hiring well. If you hire the right people, you’re gonna be spending a lot less time.

dealing with, you know, these difficult conversations and how do I transition these people out? Like things are, it’s sort of like a recipe, right? If you buy really good ingredients, no matter what you do, it’s gonna come out pretty good. But if you, right? But if you go on the cheap, you’re like, I don’t know why this isn’t tasting very good.

Mary (23:51.874)
I love that analogy.

Mary (23:58.629)
It cost me a $3 burger. I thought it was gonna be great. So Roberta, if there’s one key takeaway that you want listeners to remember from this conversation, what would it be?

Roberta (24:02.166)
Yeah, exactly.

Roberta (24:11.802)
I think I’d love them to know that management is all about perception and you may think you’re a great manager. You may think you’re a great employee, but if nobody else does, who cares?

Mary (24:26.197)
So what’s next for you? What are you working on now and where can we find you on social media?

Roberta (24:31.21)
Well, I am working right now on these new leadership development circles, which you and I just briefly talked about, where I am pulling together members in organizations who really need the support of one another so that we can increase their ability to communicate with each other and support each other in the organization and grow together. And that’s a really…

Interesting project that I’m working on. I’ve got some pharmaceutical clients that are going through it right now. They’re executives. We may be rolling this out to the next layer of their leadership. I’m also in conversations about doing that for emerging leaders. So it’s pretty exciting. And as far as socials, I’m on LinkedIn. If somebody sends me a note to connect and they mentioned the podcast.

Mary (25:13.825)

Roberta (25:23.418)
I am 10 times more likely to say yes than if they just zing me a message. They can also find me on my website, matches in M A T U S O N consulting.com and on X at

Mary (25:41.377)
Thank you very much.

Roberta (25:43.874)
You’re welcome.

00:00 | Introduction and Background of Roberta Mattison
01:05 | What Makes a Good Leader
03:04 | Professional Development Programs and Advisory Roles
04:14 | The Importance of Self-Reflection and Selectivity in Coaching
05:24 | Identifying Leaders Who Want to Learn and Grow
06:57 | The Value of Face-to-Face Interviews
08:05 | Characteristics of Great Leaders
09:01 | Helping Leaders Step into Their Authentic Selves
10:21 | Improving Approachability and Likability
11:26 | Strategies for Effective Delegation
12:24 | Navigating Change and Keeping Teams Motivated
14:57 | Difficult Conversations and Managing Expectations
20:10 | Actionable Steps for Developing Leadership Skills
21:51 | Emerging Trends in Leadership Development
23:00 | Skills for Future Leaders
24:11 | Key Takeaway: Perception in Management
25:23 | Current Projects and Where to Find Roberta Mattison