NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Chris Christensen concluded his two-year term as NRECA president with some vital advice on leadership for the thousands of electric cooperative representatives attending the 2023 PowerXchange March 5-8.
“Good leadership depends on how you trust, how you listen and how you act,” Christensen said Tuesday at the annual gathering.
“You need to trust in each other. You need to take the time to share your successes as well as your challenges with others here at PowerXchange. You need to listen intently, and then follow through with action when you get back home.”
Christensen hands the NRECA presidential gavel to Tony Anderson, Michigan director and general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative, on Wednesday.
“While I have learned many lessons in my life, I’m not a person who has all the answers,” said Christensen, who serves as NRECA’s Montana director and on the board of NorVal Electric Cooperative in Glasgow, where he runs a family cattle ranch and previously taught high school.
“As a leader, I trust that staff at my co-op and the subject matter experts at NRECA are able to provide me with the information I need to assess the issues most important to leading my co-op and our association.”
Trust is key to growing innovative solutions that are always welcome at busy co-ops, large and small, he added.
“When we trust each other, we also feel safe to have constructive dialogue to exchange ideas … and express concerns, which can lead to increased creativity and productivity,” he said.
And that means to be highly successful, leaders must listen.
“Listening to different viewpoints with an open mind makes us better leaders,” Christensen said.
“As a leader, it is essential to listen to the opinions and ideas of your peers, staffs and members—even if sometimes you don’t agree fully with their point of view. You never know where the next great idea might germinate. You must trust others and actively listen with an open mind if you want to succeed.”
And then there’s action.
“This seems obvious, but you have to have trusted and truly listened to be good at taking action quickly and decisively when situations arise,” he said.
“Leaders also must follow through on the commitments they make—that is so important—and ensure that their actions align with their words. When leaders take action, it helps to build trust and credibility. And that brings everything full circle to the job you’re trying to get done.”
Christensen encouraged the audience to practice good leadership, no matter their job at their co-op.
“Each of you play a leadership role in your own right at your co-op. That’s why you are here in Nashville,” he said.
“[NRECA CEO] Jim Matheson said it earlier, and I agree. We’re stronger when we work together and when we learn from each other as we tackle the many issues that lead to success at our co-ops.”
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