Commitment — Going after something you want takes dedication and fortitude to stay the course. Leaders take responsibility. Leaders view problems as opportunities and inspire others not to fear their mistakes but to learn from them.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maryann Bruce.

Maryann Bruce is passionate about cultivating women leaders and helping them succeed in their careers. She Chairs the Board of Wrestle Like A Girl, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women using the sport of wrestling to become leaders in life, and C200, a global invitation-only professional peer community of C-suite corporate executives and trailblazing entrepreneurs focused on inspiring, educating, supporting, and advancing women business leaders. Maryann is also a founding member of P4P, a coalition comprised of business leaders, board members, and academics committed to addressing the corporate leadership gap to achieve full gender parity by 2030, and a member of WCD, an association that seeks to foster a powerful, trusted, and global community of women corporate directors and increase the representation of women on public and large company boards and in board leadership positions.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

“Through my work with C200, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspire, educate, support, and advance current and future women entrepreneurs and corporate profit-center leaders, I am excited to have the opportunity to help more women achieve C-suite positions. I work with several nonprofit groups that I care about, with another being Wrestle Like a Girl, whereas a female athlete, I know the impact sports can have on confidence.”

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

“I have had the opportunity to learn from some great leaders and some that were not as strong throughout my career. Both instilled lessons in me that I carry with me every single day. One leader focused on how much money he would make if we achieved our goals. While I wanted to be well compensated; I learned that I was motivated more by a sense of belonging, feeling respected, and aligning with the company’s mission. Money can be a great motivator, but only up to a certain point.

While my parents taught me the Golden Rule, the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. I learned in business that the Platinum Rule is what matters most. Treat others the way they want to be treated.

While you may be the head of your company, success isn’t about you. It’s about the people you are leading. The only way to effectively lead your team is by getting to know them. Gain an understanding of their strengths, dreams, and aspirations and what fires them up. You must know whom you are leading and what they need to succeed.”

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

“As the head of a sales division responsible for generating revenue, I felt open positions meant we might not hit our sales goals. So, my team and I hired quickly, yet with all the HR processes required, we fired people slowly who weren’t a right fit. We focused on developing our low-performing players to help them reach their potential.

Years later, I realized the hire fast, fire slow mantra was backward. The opposite was true. If you hire too fast, you often learn that person isn’t the best fit. It is also rare that poor performers rise to be top performers despite the energy you put in. There is a greater return on investment when you take the time to thoroughly vet applicants upfront to ensure you’re adding the right people to your organization. In the long run, it’s better to spend more time with high performers with great potential who will stay with your company and are dedicated to moving the business forward.”

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

“For me, leadership means serving people and helping your team fulfill their potential. Many leaders want to see their team get things done and find ways to increase productivity. While that is important, I pride myself on guiding my team with compassion and care for each person. Leaders need to realize they don’t just manage projects; they lead people. Visionary leaders are coaches, mentors, and sponsors for their teams. They provide training and guidance, take a genuine interest in their careers and advocate on their behalf when they aren’t in the room. Coaches speak to you; Mentors speak with you; Sponsors speak for you.”

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

“There isn’t one definition of success. For so long, people believed, including me, that a big title and paycheck defined success. My definition started there but evolved to defining success based on how I serve others. From philanthropic work and giving back to women in business to personal and mental growth, my definition of success may differ vastly from someone else’s. Don’t let anyone define what success means to you.”

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

“So often in the business world, we are led to believe the boss shouldn’t show emotion or be vulnerable with their team. That long-held belief is no longer effective. Strong leaders embrace vulnerability and authenticity in the workplace. They show their employees that it is ok to be themselves and get to know their team on a personal level. Visionary leaders know who their people are and how they need to be coached and mentored, which varies from person to person. Some people want constant feedback, while others prefer less. Some employees want to talk to you face-to-face about issues, while others prefer an email. You must take the time to get to know what works best for each employee.”

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

“This is the most challenging part of working in leadership long-term. Many leaders rely on a playbook that has been reliable in the past. When that plan eventually stops working, it’s difficult to change. I advise leaders to take risks and remember that It’s okay to fail because it helps to shed light on what you want and where you’re going.

The best way to incorporate new ideas into your company is to gain new perspectives. Read extensively about your industry and other industries. Attend conferences or networking events and learn about others’ experiences. When you talk to the same group of people daily in the same industry, it is easy to develop ‘groupthink.’

At C200, we offer networking events for women in business to lean on other women executives from different backgrounds, industries, and career stages. We encourage the women we work with to create their own personal board of directors with leaders they respect and admire to use as sounding boards. No one person has all the answers, and many times, there is more than one correct way to approach a situation. Gaining perspectives from a group you trust can help you see beyond your day-to-day experiences.”

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Business leaders must understand that bad things can happen even if they do everything right. Failure builds character and teaches us how to get back up and try again. Be aware that you will fail; when you do, find a way to learn and grow from that experience.

Another piece of advice I love to share came from my own experiences. For a long time, I followed the ‘Two P philosophy.’ I made sure I had a purpose and passion for what I was doing every day. But after a near-death experience, I realized that perspective was missing from the equation. You must be able to put things into proper perspective. I truly believe our lives only have meaning when we live and share them with others. Who we are is more than what we do. Work is integral to our lives but not our whole existence.”

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

Commitment — Going after something you want takes dedication and fortitude to stay the course. Leaders take responsibility. Leaders view problems as opportunities and inspire others not to fear their mistakes but to learn from them.

Creativity — Being creative means being open to new ideas, especially if they aren’t your own. A visionary leader thinks and acts with the help of a constantly developing imagination, so build a mindset for the unconventional and seek out ideas that go against the grain.

Care — Emotional Intelligence is arguably more important than intellect for leaders. Strong leaders are committed to doing their best to help their employees maximize their full potential. Influential leaders must show that they genuinely care for, appreciate, and respect their team.

Confidence — As a leader, you must believe in yourself. Confidence comes from within, knowing deep down that you have what it takes. Being willing to stand out in a crowd will motivate others to have the same self-assurance.

Competence — If you are not competent, none of these other skills will help you get to the top and stay there long-term. Competence, to me, is a blend of mental agility and on-the-job experience. You must develop the knowledge and expertise to do your job well and the wisdom to make significant, potentially life-changing decisions for your team. You must have the desire to learn and keep on learning.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

“My passion is helping women. I love that I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate female leaders and help them succeed in their careers. Through my work with Wrestle Like A Girl, C200, Divershefy, and Paradigm for Parity, to name a few, I make sure that I am pushing for women to be seen and succeed every day. I use my successes to significantly impact the world, especially women. My masterpiece is seeing the women I’ve helped fulfill their dreams. There is no better feeling.”

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

“I want to be remembered as a leader who made sure the businesses she touched continued to grow and positively impact the world. I want to use every day as an opportunity to help others reach their full potential and celebrate their successes. At C200, I love working with other female business leaders, from entrepreneurs to C-suite executives. I get the opportunity to watch them grow their business and network and transform into even better leaders.

On a personal level, I want to make sure I am investing in my health and well-being so I can spend more quality time with friends and family. My time with them is finite, and I want to ensure I don’t take anything for granted.

Finally, I want to leave behind a legacy of giving back to my community and continuing to make the world a better and more inclusive place.”

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

“C200 offers many options for female business leaders to create networks, learn from others who can relate to their experiences, and offer support. From our C-Ahead program, which provides resources and insight to female business owners looking to make a vertical career move, to our Reachout Program, which helps educate and inspire young female business-minded students at U.S. colleges and universities, our team offers opportunities for leaders seeking a network of like-minded women to help them succeed.

Check out our programs here: You can also connect directly with me on LinkedIn.”

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!