A group of people on a panel sit in chairs on a stage. One of them is speaking into a microphone.

Leadership Summit 2022 connects team leads, supervisors

This year’s Leadership Summit planners didn’t know for sure whether their event would come to fruition for months leading up to the event. Everchanging local COVID data and federal travel and meeting requirements created significant uncertainty right up until early July.

“It was touch and go on whether we were going to be able to hold the summit due to COVID. But it happened! And by all accounts it was a productive and successful week of leadership training,” said Leadership Development Program Manager Troy Steadman.

“I’m proud of the decisions leadership made to move forward, for the team that ran the event and for the attendees for lending us their valuable time,” he added.

On July 18-22, WAPA leaders from across the organizational footprint gathered for the first major in-person and hybrid event since the pandemic began. With about 260 leaders in attendance in total, WAPA hosted the meeting at the Embassy Suites conference center in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Sponsored and organized by WAPA’s Leadership Development Program, the biennial training brought together WAPA’s team leads, supervisors and managers from across the organization for leadership training and networking built around the theme of “Daring Leadership, Powering Forward.”

A cross-functional, volunteer committee from a wide range of program offices provided planning and logistical support before, during and after the Summit.

The programming centered around Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” training. Participants divided between two tracks. One came for the first half of the week and the other for the latter half. Both tracks attended intensive training sessions delivered by professional facilitators.

The inspirational content was geared toward “Brave Leadership,” which aims to develop brave leaders and courageous culture. The themes explored in the sessions included choosing courage over comfort, staying curious and asking the right questions, learning to “rumble with vulnerability,” living by core values, braving to trust others and learning to rise.

WAPA leaders from across the organizational footprint gathered for the first major in-person and hybrid event since the pandemic began
WAPA leaders from across the organizational footprint gathered for the first major in-person and hybrid event since the pandemic began.

As in past years, the event was centered around the All-Leadership Meeting, or ALM, held on Wednesday, which was attended by all participants. After a safety message delivered by Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Rodgers, Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau kicked off the day with a “fireside chat” style discussion with Steadman.

“We had wide consensus across the organization, top to bottom, side to side, to invest in and commit to leadership development at all levels. That was the right thing to do and another way we’re ahead of the curve,” LeBeau said during the discussion.

Among other topics, LeBeau touched on how leaders actively make other leaders, concrete ways to stay engaged at work and the importance of WAPA’s safety culture.

“We have a safety culture at our core. We need to continue to build on that in a more holistic way,” she said. “What we’re doing this week can be an incredibly important foundation to how we approach the safety culture tenets we believe in and have committed to as an organization.”

After LeBeau’s discussion, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm delivered a recorded video message to the audience.

“Many people take it for granted that the lights will come on at the flip of a switch, but I know that you’re the ones making sure that happens for 40 million Americans across the West,” Granholm said. “And I know just how important your work is.”

Following the video address, keynote speaker Keith Bailey spoke on the theme of motivational leadership. He discussed the power of storytelling in helping organizations and leaders connect with their customers and audiences.

After Bailey’s talk, Leadership Development Program Manager Brittanie Paquette recognized the graduates from the Senior Leadership Development Program.

The SLDP graduates honored included: Jon Aust, operations manager; Greg Hansen, vice president of information technology – infrastructure; Pete Heiman, vice president of transmission services; Marc Kress, director of transmission and construction; Chris Lyles, vice president of project and asset services; Kevin Schulz, vice president of IT – cyber security and chief information security officer; and Brent Sessions, vice president of reliability compliance.

Next came a customer panel moderated by then-acting Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tina Ko.

The panel featured Tom Davis, general manager of the Yuma County Water Users’ Association; Alice Jackson, senior VP of system strategy and chief planning officer at Xcel Energy; Elda de la Pena, chief administrative officer at Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association; and Pi-Ta Pitt, tribal utility general manager at Pechanga Western Electric.

After lunch, Summit attendees welcomed the final speaker, Harvard University’s Leonard Marcus, for an inspiring training on “meta-leadership,” emotional intelligence and how crisis forges powerful bonds of leadership, even across organizations.

His neuroscience-informed approach explores how leaders overcome difficult situations by learning how to recover quickly from real or perceived threats. Marcus calls this “getting out of the basement.”

In his analogy, when the human brain perceives a threat, its emotional and physiological reaction tends to override rational thinking, sending us to the basement, where critical thinking and problem-solving skills are limited.

Great leaders can identify when they are in the basement – whether due to a major crisis, organizational challenge or interpersonal conflict – and can quickly use the tools to get themselves and others out of the basement. Then they take the actions needed to reach rational solutions.

The All-Leadership Meeting punctuated a productive week that for many felt more like a reunion than a meeting.

“The Leadership Summit was a pivotal moment for leaders to gather after an unprecedented two years,” said Leadership Development Program Manager Brittanie Paquette. “It was a breath of fresh air to be able to meet and learn together in person.”


Access more LDP resources: myWAPA->Programs->Leadership Development->Leadership Resources

Members of the Leadership Summit Planning Committee:

Melissa Ardis                  Eric Barendsen

Kayti Bashore                 Sharon Brown                 

Jackie Brusoe                  Jacob Dubbs-Stubblefield

Tomas Espinosa            David Gorlin

Charles Montañez        Lisa O’Brien     

Brittanie Paquette       Sean Salomonson       

Troy Steadman              Jermaine Villareal        

Melissa Wiseman         Tatiana Young

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024