Do the demographic findings suggest any future
challenges for water utilities or CEOs? One thing is clear,
these demographics are not reflective of the communities they
serve. This is not necessarily a problem, but I do think that,
especially for some utilities with a diverse population, leaders
need to be careful not to be perceived as being insensitive to
the needs of minority communities.
However, there are also signs that this profile may change
over time. For example, if we did this survey again in five
years the gender picture will most likely look different.
Consider the gender profile of AWWA’s current membership:
Do the findings suggest a need for CEOs to develop
º Over the age of 64 = 98% male
º Over the age of 55 = 92% male
º Under the age of 28 = 64% male
So, in 10 to 20 years, we can expect a significant
number of women to be occupying senor leadership
positions at water utilities, including the CEO spot.
As a group, the place where CEOs may need the most develop-
Were there any remarkable differences in CEOs of
ment is in navigating the political process. Our research found
that, by far, the place where CEOs feel the least effective is
in dealing with politics and policy. In a lot of ways, the most
effective CEOS are not just
managing their utilities
but they are partici-
pants in the larger
political process. They
recognize and are
willing to embrace
that role, even
small/medium utilities and large/very large utilities?
Yes, there are many important differences in terms of who
they are and how the behave. One of the most significant
differences is the level of education, which is strongly correlated with the size of the utility; the larger the utility the
higher the level of education. That is not very surprising. The
jobs tend to be more complex, offer higher pay, and are
located in larger communities that have a larger labor supply.
In smaller utilities, it is not uncommon to have CEOs with a
high school diploma. In contrast, in larger utilities, a bachelor’s
degree is a defacto requirement. Masters degrees are common,
such as law degrees, MBAs, MPAs, and Masters in Engineering.
Are there implications for future research based on
Absolutely. The first and most obvious—this study provides a
baseline for future studies. Five years from now it will be interesting to see if CEO profiles have changed or stayed the same.
Refined research in the future can help develop recruitment and training strategies for future CEOs. The skills
needed for a CEO for a utility servicing 5,000 people can
be quite different from the skills needed by a CEO of a
utility that has 750,000 customers. With more refined
research, we will be better able to identify and train
individuals at different sized utilities to be successful.
Do you see utilities taking this research and modify-
ing their hiring and training/promotion practices in
Yes, I think that’s right. We now have the information to help utility executives identify the right people. At the same time, I think it can serve as a useful
roadmap for mid-level managers. There is a lot of information in this report that can help them understand what
they need to do to properly manage their careers.