Trip to the top
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Sunday, April 01, 2012
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People who know Meredith Siegfried call her "driven."
Don't be mistaken. It's not a trait she developed since being named chief executive officer at NORDAM last July at the age of 38 and being in charge of one of the world's largest independently owned aerospace companies. She's not even 40 and in charge of 2,500 employees working at nine facilities stretched over three continents.
She's been that way dating back to childhood. Her brother, Bailey Siegfried, recalled that when all six siblings played and competed in games, if they wanted to be on the winning side they'd team up with Meredith - the third-oldest child.
"Meredith, when she has a goal, there are no distractions," said Bailey, who serves as NORDAM's director of global marketing. "When she's driven, she will achieve it, and she will ensure that she brings everyone along with her."
The Siegfried kids - four brothers and two sisters - grew up around the family business with their father, Ray, who established the Tulsa-based company in 1969 and led it for 35 years until he died in 2005. They'd often spend time on the shop floor watching people work, or they'd play in their dad's office.
Meredith Siegfried's strengths - commitment to the company, track record in accomplishing difficult tasks and ability to lead people - are what stood out when she was named CEO last summer.
The fact that she is a woman was no deterrent.
"She expects not only to succeed at anything she undertakes, but she expects to be the best at it," said Ken Lackey, NORDAM's chairman and a former CEO of the company.
"She brings incredible focus, discipline, organization, personal commitment, hard work, integrity and a very strong customer focus."
NORDAM did buck a national trend when Siegfried took over the company. Women account for only 3.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit membership organization that focuses on expanding opportunities for women and business.
Siegfried said she never felt that being a woman was a detriment or an issue, thanks in large part to her parents.
"My father always talked about the golden rule - treat people the way you want to be treated," she said. "Everybody wants to be treated respectfully, whether it's work or not work."
Today, her greatest joy is being with employees, or "stakeholders" as she calls them, and being part of a team, creating an enjoyable work environment where people feel they belong.
"It's a real honor to represent the company and our stakeholders," she said. "I really want them to be proud to be part of the company. I want them to be proud of me. I personally look forward to coming to work every day ... and I really hope they feel that way.
"Work will always be work and sometimes really hard work, but I also want it to be comfortable and fun as much as it can be."
Siegfried believes that being a strong CEO is about trying to do the right things every day, whether it is making the best decision for the company, customers or stakeholders.
She paused when asked to name the biggest challenge because she believes most challenges can be surmounted.
"I think you can work together to rise to the challenge," she said. "... The biggest challenges are the things you can't control - the world economy and things of that nature."
Her prior work set the stage for advancement at NORDAM. Since joining the company in 1999, Siegfried has held various positions - serving as chief operating officer and then president before becoming CEO.
Lackey said he doesn't recall Siegfried's young age ever being a factor when the board considered her for CEO. Instead, everyone looked at her commitment to the job, her track record for taking on and accomplishing difficult tasks, her ability to make tough decisions and whether she could be a transformational leader, he said.
Meredith is well-known, respected and well-liked in the aviation and aerospace industry, Lackey added.
"Almost everyone knows Meredith Siegfried, and maybe it's because it's an industry that doesn't have a lot of women in top positions," he said. "... She has developed good relationships with a lot of the key leaders in the industry and is viewed as knowledgeable, very straightforward, very forthright."
Siegfried, who calls herself a "natural introvert who's been socialized to be an extrovert," said she has been surprised at how she has come to enjoy the personal aspect of the job - connecting with people - as much as the business side.
And she's not sitting still outside of the office. Siegfried enjoys spending time with family, golfing, running, hiking and is taking a Spanish course through Tulsa Community College. She also recently got a goldendoodle puppy, named Lindy.
"I'm not necessarily a person who loves to go out. I like staying at home," she said. "I'm probably more of a person who likes quiet time. I'm not a person who really loved being out on the town or going out to dinners. ... It's the connection to people that I really like.
"I've found it more in the last several years. That is something that really makes me like coming to work every day."
The new position fits her well, her brother says. Bailey Siegfried describes a sister who is humble, empathetic, understanding, lots of fun, down-to-earth and who demonstrates a servant-leadership style.
Her role as CEO would make her father proud, he said.
"I think he would also be really happy," Bailey said, "that one of his kids is running the company and keeping it in the family and keeping the family culture going and engaging the family values that we were all raised on at the same time the company was raised."
Meredith Siegfried bio
Meredith Siegfried was appointed CEO of NORDAM in July 2011. Before that, she was chief operating officer, then president, responsible for all repair and manufacturing operations in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Earlier she was vice president of the company's Repair Group, vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, and vice president of NORDAM International.
Before joining the company, Siegfried was a senior consultant on mergers and acquisitions, corporate recovery services and financial advisory with Arthur Andersen's Global Corporate Finance Group.
Siegfried serves on the board of World Travel Services LLC. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Tulsa Airport Authority for eight years, five of them as chairwoman.
Last year, she was chosen for the Aspen Institute's Henry Crown Fellowship program. The two-year progression engages a select group of young entrepreneurial executives from all over the world to address the foremost challenges of their organizations, communities and countries through a structured series of seminars and an individual leadership project.
Siegfried also is a member of the Young Presidents' Organization, she has been involved with Habitat for Humanity and United Way, and participated as a delegate for the Governor of Oklahoma's Delegation to China in 2004.
She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Notre Dame with a business administration degree in finance.
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Meredith Siegfried was named CEO of Tulsa-based NORDAM last July at the age of 38. She oversees one of the world's largest independently owned aerospace companies and its 2,500 employees. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World