The Positive Effects of Magnetic Leaders

The Positive Effects of Magnetic Leaders

Attracting and retaining the right talent is one of the biggest challenges of running a successful business. So, what’s the secret? The key, according to Roberta Chinsky Matuson, is magnetic leadership. Listen in as the author of The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits, reveals what she’s learned about humanizing the workplace, the mistakes many leaders make and how magnetic leadership can attract and motivate employees—and new customers.

MP3 File | Run Time: 31:45

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Brandon: Welcome back for another episode. I’m your host Brandon Laws. Hey, I wanted to thank those of you who have been writing reviews on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, whatever they’re calling it nowadays, and leaving us feedback and on our podcast survey too.

You could find that survey link in the show notes and we have it on our blog as well. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on the podcast before. It’s always in the show notes. We take all of those reviews from Apple Podcasts or iTunes and the survey responses and we put those into consideration for a book drawing that we do about every two months. The recent winner was Joseph from Tennessee and he selected Living Forward by a recent guest Daniel Harkavy.

So thanks to Joseph for the feedback and for winning the book. I hope you enjoy that book, Joseph. For those of you who didn’t know that we have a book drawing for feedback that you provide, please continue to do that. We will continue to do the book drawing as long as we keep getting feedback and reviews on the podcast. So we appreciate that because it helps us shape future content.

On today’s episode, I invited Roberta Matuson. She is the author of The Magnetic Leader, which is the topic of our discussion for today. She’s also the author of Suddenly in Charge and we talked about that book a little bit as well. She is the founder of Matuson Consulting and she is a contributor on LinkedIn Pulse where you can find many of her articles—which that’s actually how I found her. I mentioned that later in the discussion with her.

So, I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed the book The Magnetic Leader and the discussion. As I’m really trying to develop myself into becoming the best leader I possibly can, I loved the way Roberta articulated what it takes to be a magnetic leader. It really resonated with me and I hope you feel the same. So enjoy the interview with Roberta Matuson. She’s the author of The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits. 

Brandon: Hey, Roberta. It’s great to have you on the podcast. Welcome.

Roberta: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Brandon: You wrote the book The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits. I’m really curious how this book came about. Why you wrote the book, how you wrote the book, etc. I mean did you set out to write the book on magnetic leadership or did you just happen to line up a bunch of interviews and this topic really came as results of all that research you’ve done?


Roberta: Well, I think it was a combination of life unfolding as well as circumstance and what I mean by that is when I wrote my last book, Talent Magnetism – when I write books, I don’t usually read them until I’m done writing them. When I got to the end of that book, I realized that an organization’s ability to attract and retain talent is completely dependent upon the leaders. I found that those organizations that had what I call magnetic leaders did a much better job than those who didn’t.

So I thought, OK, let me write about how one becomes a magnetic leader.

Brandon: In the introduction, you said that with all the people you had interviewed for the book, you asked what they wish they would change about their manager and this actually kind of made me sick to a certain extent. You said the second most popular answer was to have them quit. It seems harsh. But were you surprised about the answer? What was your take on that?

Roberta: Well, that actually came out as a result of a study done by Tiny Pulse and when I saw that study, I just – I mean I laughed. Then I had to stop laughing and I said Oh my gosh. That’s just like so sad. So it just really struck a chord because people hear all the time how people leave leaders. They don’t leave companies and they don’t believe it. But in reality, that’s really what happens.

Brandon: You then also came to the realization and set the foundation for the entire book. You came to the realization that making workplaces more human could actually make a drastic shift and help engage employees much more than they already are. How do leaders make the workplace more human?

Roberta: Well, I think the ones who do it most successfully look at work from the perspective of their employees and they treat their employees like they really matter as opposed to some organizations that just kind of churn people because they just see the people as bodies.

Brandon: Something in particular jumped off the page at me when you talked about sub-cultures. You talked about how somebody could say how amazing their company is to work for and scream it from the rooftops, yet another person from the same company could say how awful it is. How does that even happen?

Roberta: Well, let’s just take the example that I see with some of my clients when we’re looking at their sales organization versus their customer service department. When you walk in, you can see that it’s sunny in sales and it’s like raining in customer service. I mean, people are frying at their desks and it’s a completely different environment and you could see the results and look at then turnover that happens as a result of that.

Brandon: So I definitely wanted to first lay the foundation for like what some of the underlying issues that come up in the organizations are and a lot of them seem to have to do with leaders. You then bring up this concept of the magnetic leader, which is the title of your book. How do you describe this type of leader? What is a magnetic leader?

A magnetic leader is the kind of leader that attracts top talent and people. 

Roberta: This is the kind of leader that attracts top talent and people. When they come to work for these leaders, they stick to them as opposed to what I reference in the book as the “Teflon leaders,” which is what I call those non-stick leaders where they’re constantly repelling talent.

Brandon: You brought up such a great point in the book about how hiring costs are usually minimal with the magnetic leader. How so?

Roberta: When you think about it, when someone is magnetic, they usually have a line of people outside the door wanting to come work for them. So they don’t have to spend a lot of money on working with a third party recruiter. They just dial into their network or they see that, hey, I’ve got three people that I know who’ve reached out to me in the last month and any one of these people would be great for my team.

Brandon: Can you give some examples of how they might do that? So they obviously have a reputation of some sort. Are they sending an email out? Are they hitting the Twitter feed? What are they doing to sort of get people lined up right as soon as a new job is open?

Roberta: Well, usually they don’t have to do much because they just look inside their folder and they see the resumes of people who they’ve recently met, who have reached out to them and said, “He

y Joe. I’ve heard you run an incredible shop here. I would love to come work for you.” So those people are already in the queue.

Brandon: If listeners today are kind of thinking Oh, I wonder how many magnetic leaders I actually have in my organization, what are some of the questions they should consider to determine if they have those types of leaders in the organization?

Roberta: I would first think about who in the organization, when they have a job opening, everybody wants to transfer in that department and they want to work for that person because there’s always somebody in the company that is like that, as opposed to the ones where – you know, you’ve got somebody who just can’t seem to keep jobs filled.

Brandon: Are those really two simple ways to identify if you have a magnetic leader or the Teflon, non-stick type of leader that you described?

Roberta: The thing about magnetism is you can really feel it. So I mean when you’re around a magnetic leader—let’s take Bill Clinton for example. Regardless of what you think about his run as president or his politics, one thing you can absolutely say about that man was that he was charismatic and he attracted people.

So this is what happens with these magnetic leaders. They just attract the talent and they’re able to maximize that talent and get incredible results.

Brandon: When employees get a chance to have this type of leadership, the magnetic leader that you describe, what sort of behaviors come as a result?

Roberta: They’re going to do whatever you want them to do. They’re going to take initiative. They’re going to do whatever makes you as a leader look good because they’re so thrilled to be working with somebody like you.

Brandon: You mentioned that magnetic leaders often will seek feedback. That’s really common, right? So getting feedback from their employees and then using that in some way to either make changes for themselves, with their employees, throughout the organization. I’m really curious how you suggest leaders solicit feedback and what sort of agreements they have kind of set up for that and also what kind of tools and the frequency in which they will actually seek that feedback and then what do they do with it.

Roberta: Here’s what I tell my coaching clients. I suggest that they go to their people and they sit down one on one and just say, “Hey, listen. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being high, how would you rate the performance of me as a leader?”

They’re going to say, “Oh, probably an eight,” right? Because of course they’re not going to say a two and then the follow-up question is, “What would it take to make me a ten?” That’s the key follow up question because then they’re going to tell you all these things. Like, well, you could be a little more flexible. Well, could you give me an example? And so that’s where you can really identify those areas that if you can improve, you can hit that ten.


Brandon: I like that. You’re essentially asking the feedback in a one-on-one setting. Are there any other ways that you like soliciting feedback throughout an organization, maybe some sort of standardized process?

Roberta: I do a lot of 360s. So when I work with an executive or a new leader on their management style, I will talk with people who they report to. I will talk to their team members. Sometimes I will talk to customers and I will get a pretty good idea of where their strengths are all around as well as some areas of needed development.

Whenever you do a 360, whether somebody hires me to do it or someone else, you always want to use an external resource because people are never going to be completely honest if it’s somebody in the company. That’s just human nature.

Brandon: You referenced earlier when you were talking about the study from Tiny Pulse and I understand that they do regular weekly check-ins, about how people are feeling and much more. Do you recommend a tool like that or any others that kind of help streamline the feedback loop?

Roberta: I think those tools can be really helpful. But they should be used in conjunction with conversations and being in an environment and creating an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions. That’s really the key.

Brandon: We talked a little bit about the Teflon effect of non-stick leadership. In chapter three, I love the way you described leaders who make outrageous demands, and it sounded like you had a little bit of a personal reflection maybe early on in your career.

Roberta: Because I was one of them.

Brandon: Oh, no. So it’s like it’s basically you’re just expecting the people to work and be connected 24/7 and make almost the assumption they don’t have any life outside of work. So you had a personal experience. Can you share that story? I thought it was great.


Roberta: Yes, I would be happy to. When I wrote my first book Suddenly in Charge, I wrote a letter to my employees. Everyone who had ever worked for me, I wrote an apology and I apologized for everything that I had ever done to them. I posted that – you can probably find that on CBS Interactive and I got a slew of responses from people saying, “Oh my goodness. I wish my boss would apologize.”

One of the things that I did as a new leader, I had no idea that people have lives, like they had families. Like, I didn’t. I was single. I had no life. So I expected everybody else to not have one. As a result, you could just imagine what it must have been like to work for me.

I have a life now. So I understand. But to make sure that other people don’t have a similar experience and be the kind of leader I wanted to tell my story.

Brandon: Yeah. So you recommend people really separate and just make sure that they have lives outside of work and that leaders are really just not trying to overlap and impede on that kind of personal life that they have.

Roberta: Yeah. You have to set boundaries and the new edition of Suddenly in Charge is coming out in September and I probably am going to have to write another apology.

Brandon: I think HR people a lot of time and leaders, they hear about the cost of an employee turning over. Without really putting a lot of thought into the cost and considering all the factors that contribute to just the bottom line cost of people turning over. You broke it down really well in your book. Can you break it down a little bit for us, just what’s included in that?

Roberta: I can do even better because on my website, there is a free tool that your listeners can go to and put your numbers in and it will calculate it for you. In that tool is everything from cost of losing a customer, the cost of not being able to bring on new business because you don’t have the people to service that business, to how much does it cost to get that job posted and how much time is your manager spending interviewing people and what does it cost to train that person, et cetera, et cetera.

I mean when people use these formulas that use two times, three times, that just drives me crazy and it’s a real turnoff to CEOs because they know that it’s not three times. But when you can get your CEO a real number, it makes a huge difference.

Brandon: To your point, I’ve also heard that, the two times, three times number. But those are just really—those are assumptions. That’s it. Like having an actual break down of cost, that is really what a CEO would want to see.

Roberta: Let’s just take a simple example. Let’s just say you’re hiring a receptionist and let’s just say you live in a major city like I do where that person is going to make maybe $60,000 a year. Believe it or not, there is no way that it’s going to cost you $180,000 to replace that person, unless your last receptionist really ticked off a customer. So you have to be realistic. Could it cost you $180,000 if that person was a sales rep? Absolutely.

Brandon: The reason I really brought up the cost of employee turnover, for one, it definitely – it struck a chord with me because I’ve never seen it broken down that way. But on the other side of it, like your whole thesis behind the book is the magnetic leader and how people usually don’t leave a magnetic leader. You even talked about the CEO of Basecamp, how he’s a great leader and offers a lot of unique benefits, and people just don’t leave that organization. So it’s impossible to get a job there.

Roberta: Exactly.

Brandon: Talk about some of those attributes of a magnetic leader. You list seven in part two of your book. Talk about some of the ones that are most important from your perspective. We can’t go over all of them. But I would love to chat about a couple of them, if you can.

Roberta: The most important is authenticity and magnetic leaders, they really don’t try to be someone else and they don’t change who they are based on office politics. They are who they are and so you don’t have to worry that today Joe is a really great guy and tomorrow, when you walk in, he’s busting everybody’s butts over getting things done. They’re very consistent and they don’t try to be someone they’re not. Then the second trait would be transparency. They’re very honest and upfront with you and if they ask you to do something, they tell you why they want you to do it. They’re not going to allow you to go buy a new house when they know that next week, there’s going to be a reduction in force.

They may not tell you that there’s going to be a reduction next week. But they will tell you, “You know what? Why don’t you just hold off a little bit longer? There are some things happening I can’t tell you right now.” But they will signal to you.

Brandon: So I find it interesting that your two favorites are the authenticity and transparency. I feel like that’s what’s missing in big business today and in politics. There’s no transparency and authenticity. You just don’t know what to believe. Part of that is perpetuated by media, of course. But there’s some truth to a lot of this stuff. How do you resonate with a leader and trust them when you don’t know if they’re being authentic or not?

Roberta: Well, you don’t. So you think nothing of leaving of them.

Brandon: Yeah. It’s a fantastic point. You offer several great hiring strategies in your book. I want to pull the thread on one of them because there’s a lot of great ideas in that. This one in particular is great. You said, “Stop requiring college degrees where college degrees aren’t necessary.” Everybody has got a college degree now. So when we’re recruiting for a new position, we have to put it in the job description. Like, this is a requirement. But what’s your reasoning behind this?

Roberta: OK. Well, I do have to say, before I answer that question, that I do have a son who is going to be starting college in the fall. So it really depends on what the job requirements really are and you don’t necessarily need a college degree to be a receptionist. You don’t need a college degree to be an administrative person. You do need critical thinking skills and you need good organizational skills. But I’ve seen companies require, like I said, their receptionist to have a college degree. I’m not sure why.

Brandon: If we want great employees to stay with us, what are they expecting from their leaders to stay in an organization?

Roberta: Well, they’re expecting that those leaders will invest in their development, that they will really mentor them and coach them, so that they can be a better version of themselves. They expect that they will be given opportunities to promote rather than watching new people coming in from the outside.

They expect to be treated with dignity and respect. I mean if you can believe this – because people write to me all the time. There are some managers out there that still yell and scream at their employees.

Brandon: Wow.

Roberta: I mean I thought that went away in the 70s.

Brandon: I thought so too.

Roberta: But apparently not.

Brandon: I had mentioned the Basecamp CEO and you really talked about how – I think in a lot of tech spaces, they’re competing with each other to offer free food and candy and kegs at 4:00 PM or throughout the day or whatever and a lot of these unique little perks. But if everybody is doing it, it’s not that unique anymore. Is that a good way to engage employees or are there other ways to do it?

Roberta: I think if you ask your employees, most would say that they would rather have the money that you’re spending on the keg and on the free lunches. Like, they would rather have that in their paychecks, so that they could go buy – they could go out to lunch once a week if they chose to.

I wrote this piece for the Boston Business Journal and I said, “All the free beer in the world is not going to make employees delusional enough to stay when they have a leader who they don’t respect.”

Brandon: I think you had mentioned later on in your book about how purpose is so important to keep employees engaged. It’s knowing that their contributions are being tied to a greater good. Talk about that.

Roberta: Today, especially the millennials, it is such a purpose-driven generation. They really want to see a connection between what they’re doing and how that work connects with doing good for the world. So companies really need to help them connect the dots because not every job – let’s just say you’re a sanitation worker and you might say, “Well, how does that tie into the purpose of the world?”

If you’re helping people do a better job of recycling, well, you’re making the environment cleaner. I mean you have to really do a better job of tying that in, so that people can connect the dots because sometimes, they’re not able to do that by themselves.

Brandon: What are some ways that magnetic leaders can help employees at all levels, whether you’re the janitor, customer service rep or an executive? How do they make sure that those employees are always tied to that purpose and understand what their contributions are making?

Roberta: It has to be weaved into the purpose of the organization and the mission of the organization. I mean some companies say that their mission is to make money for their stockholders. That’s not a purpose. I once worked in a private financial consulting firm and I think our company’s purpose was to make the owners wealthier. That didn’t really connect with me and I wasn’t there for very long.

Brandon: Yeah, personally, I see profit and money as a byproduct of offering something that the market wants and I think your whole point about magnetic leadership and just how – you know, it starts with great leadership and a really strong purpose and then the money is a result of all that. Do you agree?

Roberta: Yes, absolutely. Look, companies are in business to make money. If they don’t make money, then you and I – you know, anyone who works in an organization isn’t going to have a job. So I think it would be kind of silly for us to say, “Well, they shouldn’t make money.” They’re there to make money. But those companies that really serve their employees well make higher profits than those who don’t.

Brandon: What’s your take on recognition and appreciation programs of some sort? Have you seen any really good ones out there? What’s your kind of take on it?

Roberta: I will be honest with you. I haven’t seen any really good ones out there. But what I have seen – and it was done to me – is when a manager gets to know their employee and rewards them with something that’s truly meaningful and means something to the individual. So in my case, I worked for a magnetic leader and I really wanted to go see a Phil Collins concert. It was sold out.

I guess I must have mentioned it to him, somewhere in passing, because a week later, he called me into his office. He said, “You know, Roberta, you’ve done such a great job. I just want to give this to you.” I saw he had an envelope. I thought to myself, “Is he really going to hand me a check for $500?” because I’ve been killing myself. Instead, he handed me four seats to a Phil Collins show.

Brandon: Unreal! Wow.

Roberta: And here I am. It has been 20 years and I’m still talking about it.

Brandon: He took the time to pay attention to what you really wanted and that’s I think to the point like what a magnetic leader does, gets to know their employee and delivers.

Roberta: Now, if he hadn’t and he gave me the $500, we would be talking about that and not in a positive way.

Brandon: Yeah, I agree with that. Me being in marketing, I’ve always been a huge proponent of building a strong personal brand. Actually, I work with a lot of HR consultants in my organization, at Xenium, and I’m always advocating for them to build a strong personal brand because they’re working with executives and I want them to be out there and have a really good reputation. I think, especially in leadership, it seems like it’s a requirement with – especially with the digital tools that we have. What are your thoughts on the personal brand in terms of its importance and leaders spending time on it?

Roberta: Oh my goodness. In the new book Suddenly in Charge, I talk all about the need to shout so that you can be heard in a sea of cubicles and you have to self-promote. It’s really hard to stand out and I think what I have found – and they can send their hate mail to you, anyone – is that particularly women have a very difficult time self-promoting and if they don’t, then they’re disappointed when their male co-workers do. So that goes around this concept of branding yourself.

Brandon: Maybe you went through a period where you struggled in self-promoting but ironically, this is exactly how I found you. A colleague of mine forwarded me one of your LinkedIn Pulse articles on employee engagement. I read it, loved it, and then I saw at the very bottom, you had a book. So then I immediately reached out to you and said, “Hey, would love to have you on the podcast,” and then I went out and got the book and read it. I mean that’s exactly how a strong personal brand works. Your reputation and your content and your thought leadership speaks for itself and people just – to your point in the whole book, the magnetic leadership just draws people in.

Roberta: Well, I have to tell you. LinkedIn is just such a cool tool. I just put up a post on three signs that someone isn’t coachable and in less than a week, I’ve had 165,000 views.

Brandon: What!?

Roberta: Yeah, 13,000 shares, thousands of comments, and I’m building my brand courtesy of LinkedIn. So I would suggest that your listeners use that tool. It’s free. Why not?

Brandon: Are you – this is the sales and marketing person in me coming out—are you always trying to drive people to buy your book at the end of each one of those articles? Because that’s a lot of impressions, a lot of views. You’ve got to have some conversion on that.

Roberta: I’m not driving them to buy my book. I’m driving them to engage with me and have conversations because as an author, you don’t make any money on these books.

Brandon: No, of course not.

Roberta: But I get hired to be a speaker. I would keynote at conferences. I keynote inside organizations. People reach out to me for executive coaching and if they buy a book, I’m really thrilled. But the real conversion is in – you get known and you are the person like I am. You’re known as the person that maximizes talent.

Brandon: Roberta, this has been an awesome conversation. I appreciate your time. Let’s put a bow on this. Anything else that I missed? Anything you want to say about magnetic leadership or any links and resources you want to drive people to?

Roberta: There are tons of articles that are free on my website. That’s If people want to reach out to me on LinkedIn, feel free to send me an invite. If you send a note saying that you heard me on this podcast, then I will most certainly accept your request, because we will know each other, right?

Keep the conversation going. It is so achievable to become a magnetic leader and you don’t have to do everything. But you do have to do something.

Brandon: Roberta Matuson, thank you for coming on the podcast and thank you for writing the book The Magnetic Leader. It was a good one. I recommend people pick it up. It’s excellent content.

Roberta: Thank you.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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