Evan Gaddis took office as president of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., Sept. 19. He recently spent time on a telephone interview with Electrical Marketing to discuss his new role.

Gaddis, a former two-star Army general, came to NEMA after serving as president of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for several years.

At GAMA, Gaddis led a national trade association representing over 200 manufacturers of residential, commercial and industrial heating appliances, equipment and components, as well as manufacturers of equipment and providers of services used in the production, transmission and distribution of fuel gases.

Gaddis told EM that being a leader or a general in the military is not that different from being a CEO in the civilian sector. “Leadership is leadership,” he said. “Management is management. The skills cross over on everything. The first thing I realized when I met with the board of directors is it's just like talking to a bunch of generals. Same subjects — you talk efficiency, productivity and leadership.”

The top challenge facing NEMA's members, said Gaddis, is globalization. “We live in a high-speed, high-tech world,” he said. “Organizations have to be nimble. They have to understand that the way we used to do business is changing.”

The next challenge is preparing for the future. “It's making sure that we understand where the industry is going and we take down the barriers to get there,” he said.

He added that his first priority at NEMA is to listen and understand. “You have to know the industry and understand it before you can go out there and make credible decisions and, if warranted, changes,” he said.

Gaddis said IDEA is “one of the most innovative and promising” things he has seen at NEMA. He believes the new NEMA chairman — Tim Powers, the president of Hubbell — will give IDEA the leadership that is needed to carry it forward.