If you’re wondering how the successful Executive Director of CUNA Mutual Foundation began his career, you’d be surprised to know it wasn’t in business at all: “I saw myself as a lawyer,” he shared, “I was pre-law. I [did] an internship at CUNA Mutual and that’s where I ended up staying…I’ve been there since 1968.”
Before answering each question in a recent interview, Steve Goldberg made sure to take his time, typically examining the floor and pondering on the inquiry. When asked what sets his management style apart from others he answers, “I’m not sure…I like to have fun.” Following a long pause he says, “I don’t really manage a team of people, I manage a budget and I manage decisions rather than people…and I like to connect the dots, I like to help people understand context and logical models.” But don’t let his long pauses fool you, Goldberg is quick to correct a mistake when he hears one, exclaiming, “No, I didn’t say that…I won’t agree to that,” when asked if he was more logical and numerical.
To Goldberg, a leader, specifically in Madison, needs to possess “curiosity, energy and focus.” However, being a leader isn’t always easy, due to “few days [going] as expected [and] most days [involving] unscheduled issues.” Luckily, in Goldberg’s case, he gets the opportunity to attend many community events: “An event is a way to understand the essence of an organization,” he says “To me, event is a verb. I event all the time.”
Goldberg’s involvement with the city has also allowed him to understand Madison on a deeper scale. He believes “early childhood trauma…creates a real difficulty for young people experiencing trauma or witnessing trauma,” which then “plays out into the future of that young person.” The solution according to the Madison-native: “If the whole community can see that logic model, that chain of events…then we can start dealing with these issues.” At Madison’s improvement, Goldberg is “discouraged and encouraged at the same time.” Goldberg states, “We haven’t kept pace with our [diversity]…we’re about a decade behind.” Comparing Madison now to when he was growing up, Goldberg felt we have lost our sense of security: “It felt safer…people wouldn’t lock their doors, they didn’t have to.”
CUNA Mutual began being large contributors to Madison’s non-profits just a few years back. Inspired to give to the greater cause, they asked themselves, “How can we be part of the solutions that are needed in the community?” In Goldberg’s time as executive director, he’s learned a lot: “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the community has big needs, and they can be best addressed with large initiatives which takes an enormous amount of money…and alignment.” In comparison to other cities, Goldberg has also learned that “we are asset rich and access poor.”
Apart from the community and his career, Goldberg has a lot on his plate. In regards to his two teenagers, he states, “I want to help them in school and in life.” Of all that Goldberg has accomplished, he’s most proud of “just feeling that I make a difference everyday. ”