In the Pilot's Seat

By Sally Anne Flecker | Spring 2013

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Meredith Siegfried (FIN ’96)

Meredith Siegfried had ample time to observe how her father worked with people at the Northeastern Oklahoma Research, Development and Manufacturing Company or NORDAM. Ray Siegfried (’65) rescued the Tulsa, Okla.-based aerospace manufacturing and repair company from bankruptcy in 1969, when it was just an eight-person shop. Beginning when she was young, Meredith Siegfried tagged along to the plant on Saturdays with her dad and five siblings. She would sit in someone’s office, playing on the phone and pretending to make decisions. Down on the shop floor, there was always someone working on aircraft parts who was glad to explain the work to her. Without knowing it, she was preparing for her life’s work.

Today, NORDAM has 2,500 employees with nine facilities on three continents. In 2011, Meredith Siegfried was named CEO. Almost immediately, she and her management team put her signature on the company by creating the Ray Siegfried Leadership Academy to formalize her late father’s “Servant Leadership” style of management. “It’s the upside-down pyramid.” The belief among Meredith and her three brothers, who also hold leadership positions at NORDAM, is that, “We work for the people at this company, not the other way around,” she says. “It’s recognizing that we’re the lowest people on the totem pole, and that the person who’s working on the shop floor has the most importance. They’re the men and women getting the parts out the door, so we need to do everything to make them successful.”

Training takes place twice a year, with two full days of workshops and presentations at the perfect location—the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. Eventually, anyone at the company who manages even one other person will go through the training. “Obviously, we’re a business, and we need to make sure we produce quality products and profitable products,” says Siegfried. “But it’s also about how we do our jobs, working with human beings.” What a lesson—imprinted those many Saturdays long ago.