Female Employee at Central States, Director of Purchasing Melissa Hagemann

Women Who Lead

Melissa Hagemann – Leadership is all about trust.

“Everything I try to do is with high integrity. Without that there’s no trust, there’s no shared passion, there’s no clear direction or path.”

That is how our Purchasing Director began the conversation.

While everything that Melissa said is true – it is one of very few things that you can say about leadership that holds up no matter who says it.

Leadership is a uniquely individual trait. Life and professional experiences paint the definition of leadership for us all. For Melissa the way that she thinks about and displays leadership comes from sibling rivalries, being a club water skier at the University of Cincinnati and oval motorcycle racing – a life of competition.

“I grew up with two brothers. I played a lot of sports as a younger child and I have gotten used to having different backgrounds and diversity in everything that I do, but I’ve also developed thick skin because of it. That’s really transforming and has helped me become the leader that I am today because I’ve been able to read past some of the words that might come out of someone’s mouth and understand what they’re really trying to get at and I try not to take things personally.”

Cultivating a leadership style is never-ending. It takes time. It’s influenced by life experiences which never stop coming, meaning that your leadership style is also evolving as you continue to evolve as a person. You can never stop self-reflecting which is something this INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) leader, thrives on.

“My style is one of a watcher. I want to watch what everybody is doing, and I want to size up my playing field first. I don’t like to be the first one that goes out and makes myself vulnerable. That is not because I don’t want to be vulnerable; It’s because I want to understand what or who I’m working with. I need to understand how my competition or how my ally or my teammates think, how they behave, how they define success, so that I can predict what they need from me.. That ability helps me define leadership, at least as it stands for me. Enabling people to be who they are and help them get where they want to go by giving them stability and clarity. That’s very important to me.”

Being a leader is not always easy. There are career fields that have few women in influential roles and even fewer who have a INTJ female leaders. For the Texas native who spent much of her life in Ohio, the male/ female dynamic in the workplace is something she hasn’t concentrated on much. Whether your name is Don or Dawna – it is all about who you are as a person. That comes in handy when you have just one woman on your team of six who is a direct report.

“For me, it’s not as big of an issue between male and female. There are certainly some different personality traits that do come with gender. What I try and hone in on is the personality type. Are you a dominant? Are you a high I? Are you a S or are you a C? What is your Myers Briggs type? That for me, is more telling than gender. Sometimes that [personality type] is hard to diagnose, based off whether you are working with a man or woman, but I don’t particularly find any massive challenge with being in a male dominated environment ’’’

Along with the skill to not take things personally, because after all, it’s all about the goals we wish to accomplish, Melissa knew expectations on and off the field early on in her life.

“When I was younger, my dad and mom had things they expected from us (siblings). It was expected that you contributed to the family on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we were helping mom mop the floors. We were helping to clean the kitchen and the house. Sunday, we would do our soccer games and then we would be cutting the grass before sitting down for a family meal together” I’ve just become gender blind altogether because I’ve grown up around and with men in my life; as family, as friends, as mentors and as leaders, we all come together with a healthy work ethic to contribute to success together

As we have talked about, a person’s leadership style is crafted from experiences which also means interactions with other leaders throughout your life are influential. Lessons are learned from both bad and good leaders that help shape you.

“I would say that the most important lesson is that you’re going to have to work hard and start at the bottom no matter what. Nothing is given to you. It is a matter of whether you’re going to stand up and deal with the challenge … learn from it, and reflect on it; or are you going to feel like a victim? I would like to think that I’ve chosen the route of standing up and facing the challenges in most cases, but I think that’s one of the hardest things coming into any type of career to accept. You’re not going to immediately be given credibility. All that being said, one thing that I firmly believe and have learned is that you have to make your work your passion and not your passion your work.”

Thank you, Melissa, for your shared experiences and for being such a strong and supportive leader. Tune in next week for another story from one of our fantastic female leaders.

To learn more about working for Central States, and to maybe become our next great leader (male or female), please check out our opportunities on our careers page.

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