It all started with an idea and a question: How can we amplify more voices in the propane industry? In the spring of 2022, the Women in Propane Council was celebrating its 10th anniversary at the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA)’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Nashville and held a leadership forum featuring keynote speakers, leadership training and spotlights from prominent industry leaders. One element from that day’s events that stood out was an interview between Bridget Kidd, chief operating officer for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and Paula Wilson, retired director of industry engagement for PERC, where Wilson spoke about the positive impacts the Women in Propane Council has had on the industry.
That interview sparked an idea that resulted in what we now know as the “Through the Leadership Lens” podcast. As this podcast celebrates its first anniversary, let’s recap some of the highlights from the show’s first year on the air.
What Is the Podcast About?
Led by co-hosts Freddie Ridler, head of business growth for Rural Computer Consultants, and Kidd, these conversations all center around leadership — what it means, how we perceive it and how it affects those around us. For those who may not have had a chance to listen yet, “Through the Leadership Lens” addresses key themes in each episode by asking three signature questions: What does leadership mean to you? When was a time you had a great leader or led a team well? How has your leadership style changed over the years?
By starting with these three questions, the podcast guests can share their leadership journeys from their own perspectives, which — spoiler alert — are all different! Ridler explains, “My favorite part of doing the podcast is something I bring up almost every time: It’s the stories. You grow by listening to other people’s stories. When I listen to the stories of different leaders, I take parts and use it for my own growth.”
Podcast guests come from a wide range of backgrounds and leadership positions in the industry and offer valuable insights on how they arrived at these positions. Listeners can find advice and life lessons from the podcast guests.
Who Has Been on the Podcast?
Since its debut in the fall of 2022, “Through the Leadership Lens” has launched more than 20 episodes, and the industry experts featured come from a broad range of experiences and segments of the propane industry.
From Women in Propane Founding Chair Nancy Coop, to Oberon Fuels President and CEO Dr. Rebecca Boudreaux, to NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski, each guest brings their own unique story that resonates with the podcast’s audience.
Kidd adds, “The best part of the podcast, for me, is having the chance to hear the paths someone has taken to achieve their current success. We’ve heard a diversity of backgrounds leading and contributing to a wealth of knowledge, perspectives and creativity that now pepper our industry. This experience continues to demonstrate our very bright future filled with incredible leaders.”
Listeners get to hear the same question answered differently by each of the guests. A common thread throughout each episode is that for most leaders, their leadership style is ever-changing. Listeners can learn that to be a great leader, you must reflect on your choices — not only how they impact those around you, but what you might do differently next time.
In episode 10, Michelle Bimson Maggi, vice president of law at AmeriGas, shares how she adapts to change as a leader. “My view of leadership has changed over the last seven to eight years. Seven or eight years ago, I would have said that leadership is an org chart. … Now, I feel leadership is a skill. It is a skill that you have to practice day after day after day.”
As the former first female chair of NPGA, Bimson Maggi’s experience and words serve to reach woman who may find themselves in leadership positions for the first time.
In episode 6, Mike Rutherford, president of Rutherford Equipment, shares an insight that all leaders should take to heart: “I think it all starts with good communication … communicating to your team and then letting them work. Leadership is providing positive support, guidance and good communication to achieve a common goal. Also, [put] trust in others; trust in your team to do the job that they’re hired to do; and [don’t] get in their way.”
In episode 13, Lauren Clark, president of Bergquist Inc., shares, “Our role [as leaders] is to help people on their path to being their best selves, not to keep them right where they are because that might benefit me. What benefits me is to do what’s best for other people.”
In episode 18, John Peña, director of education at the Southeast Propane Alliance Technical Education Center, shares how his time in the military shaped the type of leader he has become. Speaking on one of his defining moments, Peña says, “It’s easy leading when all the conditions are perfect. I really feel that leaders don’t embrace the opportunities they have when they have setbacks [and] shortcomings, when they fall and fail.”
At the end of each episode, the hosts close the interview with a fun, rapid-fire round of questions, including “What do you keep in the trunk of your car?” and “If you weren’t in the propane industry, what would be your ideal career?” Listeners never know what the guest is going to say, and that’s the fun of it.
In episode 9, Christina Armentano, chief operating officer of Paraco Gas Corporation, shares a heartwarming answer to how she exercises her leadership skills throughout her community. “I want to speak to the work I’ve done with an organization called ‘Dress for Success,’ a national organization that helps women rejoin the workforce and prepare for interviews … You really learn so much from being around these individuals who have struggled and who have had challenges, and they share unbelievably inspiring stories that make you want to be better.”
What’s Next for the Podcast?
While the podcast currently releases a new episode every three weeks, listeners will be able to attend a live recording of “Through the Leadership Lens” at the NPGA Southeastern Expo this April in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At this year’s Women in Propane Council Roundtable session, attendees will hear from previous podcast guests and have the opportunity to ask their own questions about leadership. There will also be an interactive opportunity for attendees to conduct their own leadership assessment using the podcast’s signature questions.
As the creator and executive producer of the podcast, I believe the benefits of gaining leadership insight and advice should be accessible to everyone in our industry, and through our work on this podcast, we’ve been able to provide that. I am immensely proud of what our team — Ridler, Kidd, Chelsea Uphaus of ROUSH CleanTech, Peini Spinazzola of Cornerstone Building Brands and Kirsten McAlpin of Conger LP Gas — has done.