Becoming an Effective Leader

SEMA Member News—July/August 2014  

Becoming an Effective Leader

By Gigi Ho

Whether it’s leading a small group, a department or an entire company, effective leaders draw upon their own unique journeys for developing keys to success. While there is no single formula, some of the most successful women in leadership positions today share some core values that can be applied to any company atmosphere. Here’s a look at two rising leaders in the industry and their takes on leading effectively.

Melanie White, Vice President of Hellwig Products

Melanie White, vice president of Hellwig Products.
Melanie White, vice president of Hellwig Products. 

Melanie White comes from a lineage of leaders. A fourth-generation Hellwig, she carries the tradition of a 65-plus-year-old, family-owned and -operated company that was started by her great-grandfather, Rudy Hellwig. White said that diversifying her knowledge within the company and the industry helps her understand how to make effective decisions for the future of Hellwig Products.

“I’ve been focused on marketing and sales for many years, but I’ve expanded into research and development, and production,” White said. “I’m looking at all areas of the company daily.”

The dynamics of working within a family-owned company certainly differ from a traditional business setting. From White’s perspective, the biggest difference is that there is a lot of personal investment in the company.

“Sometimes it’s hard to look at it as a business,” she reflected. “It almost has a heart and personality of its own. It’s challenging to separate yourself from it.”

White’s ingrained passion for the family business and her love of the industry set her apart as one of the leaders in the company today, and she has developed her own definition of being an effective leader.

“The key items for me in leadership are understanding my strengths and weaknesses and surrounding myself with smart folks who complement me,” said White. “I try to have a healthy balance of getting involved with all of the details and having a bigger picture in mind. It’s easy to get really involved with the tactical, but staying strategic is really key. You can’t succeed without the balance of strategy and tactics.”

As White continues her personal growth as a leader, she also remains devoted to recognizing the efforts of those who are critical to the company’s success.

“Pay attention as management,” she advised. “People want to do a good job. It’s important to recognize those efforts and encourage their growth and improvement.”

Christina Alongi, Dealer Channel Manager at Pirelli Tire

Melanie White, vice president of Hellwig Products.
Christina Alongi,
dealer channel manager
at Pirelli Tire.

Leading teams in large corporations is familiar territory for Christina Alongi. With experience drawn from working at J. Walter Thompson, a global advertising and marketing agency, to a six-year career with Ford Motor Company in the vehicle sales division, she now leads at Pirelli Tire as the car dealer channel manager for Ford and GM. For Alongi, leadership is about personal growth and strength in decision-making.

“Learning to have the confidence to prioritize, empathize and make unpopular business decisions when necessary is imperative in the tire industry today,” she said. “In terms of personal growth, the most important aspect that stands out is the ability to hear criticism and understand it. Self-awareness brings confidence in your abilities and helps you to create and develop relationships with your customers.”

She also pointed out that the decisions a leader makes not only affect the immediate department or group, but also laterally within the company.

“In a leadership role, it is important to communicate effectively and to have heightened awareness of the impact departmental decisions have on other parts of the organization,” she said. “The sales function interfaces with all departments, so it is imperative that we stay in frequent contact to exchange and engage on ideas on how to better serve our customers.”

Leading is about inspiring the team, Alongi said. She has seen team members strive harder after having an “ah-ha” moment. Often, she recalled, advancement follows. Inspiration is a two-way street.

“Empowering the team to make important decisions that lead to our success is how I thrive,” Alongi concluded.

Joining the SBN Conversation

The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) encourages all of its members to voice their perspectives across their social platforms. New SBN updates and discussions can be found on the group’s LinkedIn page, titled “SBN–SEMA Businesswomen’s Network.” More information about SBN can also found at