Ten Leaders to Know: Brad Nielsen (Full Profile)

August 14, 2023 | Ten Leaders to Know

Vice President, Operations

Iowa American Water

Birth City
Champaign, IL

Current City
Davenport, IA

How did you get where you are today?
I'm passionate about learning and leadership and both have really paved the way for my career. I'm a believer that as a leader you must take an active role in developing your team and I've had the privilege of being a part of some really exceptional teams. I love learning new things. That's really allowed me to take on some really diverse opportunities and expand my development along the journey.

What excites you the most about the business you work in?
Developing strategy and strategic thinking gets me excited. In any utility you are dealing with long asset lives requiring constant renewal. Specifically in the water/wastewater utility industry, most infrastructure we are installing will outlive everyone who is a part of the project. My team and I always try to look to the future so our customers and the next group of leaders sitting in our offices will have a better system because we were strategic in our approach.

What do you see as the next big trend in your industry?
Like most industries, I see work force planning and automation as key trends. We have great people with long tenures on our team. As we face key retirements, we want to be as prepared as possible. Technology continues to take big steps forward and it's exciting to see what's going to be possible.

Where do you look for inspiration or to generate new ideas?
I love to talk about business, regardless of what industry someone is in. I have and have had some great mentors in my career which is very helpful resource and the collaboration of my team at all levels has been produced some really great new ideas as well.

What does effective leadership mean to you?
Effective leadership means a focus on improvement each and every day. Whether it's developing your team to the next level, positively impacting customer experience, not being afraid of making mistakes, challenging the status quo of how we are operating today, or just being a better human being. I believe being an effective leader is a journey, not a finish line, and all of those aspects should be focus points.

What is your favorite thing about Iowa?
I remember when I relocated back to Iowa after moving around to various Midwest states. I was driving in northeast Iowa on my way to La Crosse, WI and I recall watching the rolling hills of corn and thinking that this is, and always will be, home. It's hard to explain other than describing the feeling and that feeling is one I only experience in Iowa.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Stretch yourself even if you think you aren't ready, but never lose sight of the most important things in life. Keep those things in perspective as you climb the ladder.

Why are you a member of ABI?
ABI is a key organization that is a look behind the curtain at how business moves. The companies and leaders associated with ABI is a great cross section that excites me to be a part of.

Who do you look to for mentorship?
I look anywhere that I find inspiration. This world is full of incredible people with incredible experiences.

As a business leader, what book would you recommend for personal or professional growth?
There are so many great resources out there. The book that has impacted me the most was Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. I discovered that book at a time when the message couldn't have been more important for me to hear. I'm currently reading The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holliday which has interested me as well.