June 7th, 2010

Being a Solar Hero and Lessons on Leadership


solar hero

I am a solar hero. Well, almost. For the past month I’ve been running a crew installing solar in Roxbury. I’d say we’ve installed about 50kW in the past month, not bad on a pitched roof. This is some of our work to the right. The name solar hero started as a joke around the job site but mainly is used to talk about anyone who kicks a#$ and takes names while installing solar.

Over the past 3 months I’ve learned 3 things about leadership, its kinda like a 3 steps process to becoming a leader type stuff. By leader, I mean someone who others would willingly follow. I have to admit the working construction was the last place I thought I’d be learning about leadership but here goes.

Step 1: Gain Trust

The first thing I learned is that you need to gain people’s trust and respect. People don’t listen to the words coming out of your mouth, but they listen to if the source (ie you) is credible. Credibility is determined by trust. This is hard in the beginning because trust usually comes over time. These are not my words either, you can see The Leadership Challenge

Step 2: Provide a vision.

Once you have gained everyone (or most peoples trust) the next step is to provide a vision. Sometimes this can be a direct vision, “we are going to put solar panels on the roof today” or a lot of times I’ve found the best way to get a vision is through asking good questions “what do you guys think is the best path?”. This not only increases trust, but it involves others in the decision making process so they’re more likely to buy in to the last decision.

Step 3: Help Others

Here is the key part. Help everyone else as much as you can to do their jobs even better to reach the vision. When you help others, they will WANT to help you in return.

From my time in school and in past jobs, I’ve noticed a huge difference between formal power structures and informal ones. Most leadership comes down to informal structures. You may ask what is the difference? If you had a group of guys and asked them who they would want to follow, whoever they point to is most likely a leader type figure to them. Even though this might not be their direct boss. Why would they follow this person? Because they probably trust who they choose and he/she helps them to do their job the best. Sometimes people get this confused with formal power structures, where people will do things when they are told because their boss is telling them.
How can we use this to further Renewable Energy adoption?

What I’ve started to think about is how can I use these learning to further renewable energy integration, specifically on a political front.

Here’s what we need to remember, no one will listen to us if they don’t trust us first. It does not matter if every thing about global climate disruption is true, if we are not trusted then we won’t be listened to.

So, here’s the challenge, how do we make ‘non-renewable energy believers’ trust us? Simply stating what we believe to be facts over and over again will not do it.

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.