For the inaugural NEXT nuclear leadership cohort capstone project, we started with the key belief that nuclear energy should have a bigger seat at the clean energy table. We also believe diverse leadership around the nuclear executive table is necessary for the future of our industry.  We initially set out to explore how we could raise our voice to inspire today’s nuclear leaders to recruit, hire, retain, and promote more female talent. We sought out resources to help us understand how we could elevate our leadership within our industry with the goal of making development resources available to others in our industry. 

To get started, we asked a lot of questions about nuclear leadership. What differences exist between male and female nuclear leadership competencies? Is one better than the other? How do the differences translate to sustainable results?  What drives those differences? How do we leverage those differences to get more female leadership at the nuclear executive table? How do we leverage those differences to make us better leaders? 

Amid this project, our world was disrupted with a pandemic and then nationwide civil unrest due to questionable police practices.  This put our project on hold while we paused and reflected on the current state of our world and the leadership all around us.  When we reconnected, we asked more questions. What leadership traits are important in a time of crisis? What leadership traits are important when trying to recover from a crisis?  How were the different leadership styles affecting those that followed said leaders?  How could these crisis leadership traits be the bridge to leading change in our industry?

We partnered with the distinguished leadership research company Zenger Folkman to get some hard data, facts, and statistical analysis to help answer our questions. Zenger Folkman performs 360-degree leadership assessments to measure and evaluate differentiating leadership competencies for companies all over the world. Fortunately for us, they were also curious about the answers to our questions and were willing to share the data they have collected on 1,980 nuclear leaders of the past two decades.

We were able to answer many of our questions and gain invaluable insights in other unexpected areas.   Our research left us with a good understanding that there are invaluable strengths in female leadership.  This research has helped us focus on those strengths for leading in times of crisis, leading in times of stability and to lead our industry and collective organizations toward a clean energy future where both nuclear and female leadership play a key role.