Q&A with Manuel Teodoro, PhD
Water Utility Leadership
A soon-to-be published study, “Water Utility Leadership for the
21st Century” (project #4342), provides an overview summary
of the drinking water community executive ranks, including
their demographics, educational qualifications, professional
backgrounds, skills, career paths, and personalities. This study
reveals who water utility CEOs are and offers a baseline for
comparison in future research. It also assesses the degree
to which CEO characteristics align with utility present and
long-term challenges. The primary contribution of the project is to lay the groundwork for improved training, recruitment, and promotion of water utility CEOs in the future.
The survey upon which the study is based was sent to 300
CEOs at U.S. utilities of all sizes with 169 responses (a 60%
return rate). More information on this project can also be
found in this issue of Advances in Water Research in the
article, “Developing Human Resources for Water Utilities.”
Water Research Foundation:
This project was an unsolicited research project. What
interested you to develop a
research project on this topic?
Manuel Teodoro: I have done
a great deal of research on
executive leadership, management, and behavior. For example,
I recently published a book
titled Bureaucratic Ambition that
explored how an individual’s
career path shapes the behaviors and incentives to innovate
among executives in public agencies. That, combined
with my personal interest in utilities and utility management, made this a natural research project for me.
What was one of the most surprising
findings of the research?
I tend to look at executive research in
three segments: who they are; what
they do; and how they think.
Perhaps the most significant finding was “who
they are.” From a demographic perspective, this
is an extremely homogenous group, even more
so than originally expected. Survey respondent
CEOs are overwhelmingly male (94%), white
(93%), non-Latino (99%), and over the age
of 50 (75%). This is in line with the profiles of
the Fortune 500 where 93% of CEOs there are
male and while and 98% are non-Latino.
Also, 94% of CEOs are married and less than
one percent are single, never married. This is an
extraordinary statistic when you consider that only
64% of the general adult population is married.