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[Editor's note: Influential Women In Energy 2021 is a supplement to the May 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.]

It was 20 years ago that Melanie Little moved to Tulsa, Okla., to join The Williams Companies, which has led to a long career in the oil and gas industry, She now serves as senior vice president, Operations and EHS&S, with Magellan Midstream Partners. 

“My undergraduate degree is in environmental engineering, and the position at Williams afforded me an opportunity to manage the environmental team (compliance and remediation activities) for Williams’ refined products, NGL and natural gas assets (production, transportation and processing),” she said. 

Nowadays, Little has responsibility for the EHS team that she actually started her career with, and that responsibility now also includes development and publication of Magellan’s annual sustainability report along with operations in 22 states. 


“Certainly, the opportunity to lead in the U.S. Army at a very young age was, and remains, formative to how I lead teams today. My Army leadership experiences taught me early on in my career to ‘know my role.’ 

“Specifically, I had a non-commissioned officer who took the time and effort to instill in me how to assess what type of leadership role was required in different situations. He challenged me to look at how I could make the most impact in a situation, while trusting those on the team, so that collectively we could maximize our effectiveness as a team. That experience has stayed with me for nearly 30 years and has made me ‘pause’ and consider what my role as a leader should be on a daily basis.” 

Her leadership lessons didn’t stop there. She also attributes many leadership lessons from those on her teams, which she said are invaluable. Among them: 

  • “Ask tough questions, sometimes what is not said is more important than what is presented; 
  • Trust your instincts when you see potential in someone; 
  • Listen in order to understand and show empathy, not just to fix problems; and, 
  • Make connections and try to see the humanity in others.” 

Industry motivation 

“I am extremely motivated and passionate about the people in the industry, whether within Magellan or in the many peer companies I have had the opportunity to work with over 20 years. [They are] people that truly understand the importance of our role in providing fuel products to every American and in doing so responsibly, safely and compliantly, and who take great pride in knowing that what they do impacts millions of lives in multiple positive ways each and every day.” 

“The challenges I have faced were those of a leader, regardless of gender. My approach to challenges has been to ensure that I understood the situation by asking questions, seeking input and analyzing risks to ensure the best decision could be made at the time.” 

Major milestone 

It was approximately two years ago that Little set a goal to become an independent director at a public company. 

“Working with a number of professionals who are focused on finding both candidates and public companies the right fit (from both parties’ perspectives) allowed me the opportunity to truly assess what I was seeking with an independent director role from a personal and professional growth perspective. 

“In addition, my CEO and Magellan’s board of directors were very supportive of my pursuing the opportunity, and with that support (to include recommendations as I went through the process), along with the support of my family and the advice/coaching from mentors, I had a strong support network that proved invaluable to successfully obtaining an independent director position.” 

Memorable moments 

“One of the most memorable initiatives of my career was the opportunity to lead multiple cultural efforts in 2018 and 2019 focused on improving employee engagement and reinforcing an exceptional safety culture built over decades. These initiatives included leading 30-plus town hall meetings across our diverse asset base, conducting our first companywide safety culture survey, and developing and executing another half dozen initiatives that were people centric.” 

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