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Becoming a More Effective Leader

New APPA chair encourages new paths to authority

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew Boatright recently was named chairman of the American Public Power Association, which represents 2,000 community-owned electric utilities serving 48 million. He provided the Energy Times with a copy of his recent address at the association’s annual meeting. This is the last of a two-part commentary based of his remarks, edited for style and length. Last week: Striking the Work – Life Balance.

Growing professionally and personally requires you to remain open to new experiences.

You also need to be introspective.

Andrew Boatright


You need to ask yourself the right questions. What does success mean in your book? Where do you really want to be? How much risk are you willing to tolerate? What are you willing to give up? But don’t stop there. As Albert Einstein said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”

And you can only go beyond when you are not afraid to fail. Why get out of your comfort zone? What’s the reward?

It builds self-esteem. Conquering the challenge, pushing yourself to do what you may have perceived as impossible, staying with it, and getting there builds confidence like nothing else can. When it’s delivered to you on a platter, you’ll take it, right? But, it’s not nearly as satisfying.

Our comfort zones tend to shrink as we get older — but if we can keep expanding them, we’ll open ourselves up to greater fulfillment and improved well-being as we age. Getting out of your comfort zone helps you make a positive impact in ways you may not be fully aware.

Pushing beyond your limits helps you be a stronger and more effective leader. The number one leadership lesson that I have learned from fitness training is that to have the license to push others, you must first push yourself. You can’t expect your clients or team to push beyond as effectively if you don’t model it. I’ve pushed myself further physically than I could have ever imagined and this has helped me understand that change is really all about adapting.

As a strong leader who is willing to take calculated risks, you can foster better team spirit, which we know is vital to success. You can rally people to your utility’s mission, and encourage them to take on new challenges together. When you raise the bar for yourself, you can also raise the bar for those who work with you.

The journey out of your comfort zone helps you break down daunting challenges into smaller chunks that you can tackle incrementally. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, right? And we have a whole herd of elephants to contend with. Whether it’s better educating our policymakers and customers about public power, working with behind the meter generation, shoring up against cyberattacks, complying with environmental regulations, or hiring and retaining the right talent.

When we are trying to push beyond personally, we know the only way to achieve the impossible is to break things down, to set small goals that lead to achieving bigger goals. And that’s invaluable for dealing with the challenges we face as an industry. 

Finally, breaking out of your comfort zone will ensure that you have a fuller life experience. Swimming upstream is hard but it helps you experience more of what life has to offer. It helps you break free of limitations, take control, and define yourself authentically. The satisfaction from pushing beyond is far greater than that of staying in your comfort zone.

Pushing past your limits helps you find fulfillment, excitement, and meaning. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You are more resilient, capable, and courageous than you believe. And before you know it, rising to the challenge will become second nature. It starts with you.

Andrew Boatright is the deputy director of Independence Power and Light in Missouri.



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