Featured Instigator: Susan Mazza

This month we are featuring Instigator Susan Mazza, CEO of Clarus-WORKS, Founder/Author of Random Acts of Leadership™, and Co-Author of The Character-Based Leader as well as Energize Your Leadership.

Susan graduated from Penn State with a BS in Finance and International Business. She believes her "real education" started when she began working.

She started out working in a very large accounting department facilitating the communication between the accountants and the IT professionals to develop and deploy new and innovative technologies. Ultimately she became an IT professional and project manager. She discovered that implementing systems well requires that you facilitate change well. After 14 years she made a career leap from implementing technology systems to transforming human systems. Her focus now is on cultivating leadership, facilitating progress and developing accountable and collaborative cultures. She believes this is "a natural integration of my experience in both technology and human systems."

A leadership lesson Susan gained from her first job was the importance of empowering people based on their capabilities rather than limiting them by their level. She elaborates: "I had an amazing first boss who treated me more like a partner than a new hire. Even though she had 10 years more experience than I did we were doing some leading edge work. I learned so much so fast, and felt empowered to invent solutions and contribute new ideas. Looking back I think that planted the seeds that ultimately lead me to venture off on my own later in my career."

When asked about one of the best moments she has had professionally, Susan shared, "Last September I delivered a keynote address to a large audience. Sometimes I wonder if it's really possible to make a meaningful impact in just 1/2 hour talking to so many. Last month though I was back in CA and stopped in to see someone who was at that event. She had brought quite a few people with her that day and shared how they are still talking about and acting on the ideas they learned. She shared that personally she got the courage to share her personal story, to speak more where she previously she had held back and been unsure, and is now fully embracing her leadership. Recently the non profit she started held an event for 500 people. I'd say creating and speaking to a group of 500 people is remarkable. My best moments are when I hear stories like this from people who discover something that helps them to become the most powerful expression of themselves to make a difference in both small and big ways."

On the topic of the most important qualities in leaders, Susan believes that integrity, authenticity, courage, and compassion are four critical qualities.

Susan thinks schools should teach personal development, especially anything that would develop the mindset and skills of personal responsibility.

When asked about books she has found most helpful for her professional life, Susan said, "Ellen Langer's books Mindfulness and The Power of Mindful Learning immediately come to mind. If we are to realize our potential we need to find ways to go beyond our self imposed limits. The hard part can be to see the limitations in our own minds. These books wake you up to the mechanism of limitations in your thinking and perceptions. That understanding and awareness is so key to causing change."

When asked the most creative solution she's ever seen to a problem in life or work, Susan replied, "The tricky part about that question is that a lot of times the creative solution is so obvious I call them 'oh duh' moments which immediately get integrated into 'but of course'... so you can't remember them. This question did bring a funny story immediately to mind though ... when my daughter was very small she noticed that while she was born without hair she had hair now, but her father still did not. Her solution: "I know daddy, let's go to ShopRite!" While my husband wished it were that simple, sometimes the solution really is right in front of us."

If she had to hashtag her life, Susan would choose from: #livelovematter, #bethebestyou, #makeadifference, and #livealifeyoulove.

One of Susan's favorite quotes is "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have" by Margaret Mead.

When asked "if money were no object, what would you do all day?" she responded, "Actually a lot of the same things I do today - write, speak, coach, and facilitate progress. I would probably focus more time on writing and playing music though."

The best advice she's ever been given was, "Figure out what you want to do next so you can figure out what you want to do after that." She continues, "I was in my late 20s wrestling with career change options. This college student reminded me that the path to the future really can be discovered one step at a time. I think that this is even truer today. Many jobs people will have 10 years from now haven't even been conceived of yet."

Of her involvement in Lead Change, Susan says, "You could say I was a founding member. Mike Henry invited me into conversation after we met on Twitter when Lead Change was just an idea. I had the good fortune to be 1 of the 12 who met for an Unconference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL where we engaged in a fantastic dialogue about character based leadership."

Editor's Note - You may ask, “How does one get chosen to be a featured Instigator?” The answer is simple. If you are already an Instigator, fill out this form and continue to engage with the Lead Change Group on a regular basis. If you are not yet an Instigator, sign up. There are many benefits to being an Instigator – email us if you want more information.

Previous 2016 Featured Instigators:

7/2016: Mike Henry, Sr.

6/2016: Mary Schaefer 

5/2016: Kevin Eikenberry

4/2016: Chip Bell

3/2016: Eunice Parisi-Carew

2/2016: Chris Edmonds

1/2016: Marcella Bremer


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