To be a true leader, Lane Hagerdorn says you must always be learning. The 2020 University of Arizona Global Campus graduate has spent more than 30 years studying leaders: during his time spent as a member of the United States Air Force and while studying business leadership in school. Today, he is confidently putting the lessons he gleaned from these experiences to practice as Implementation Executive for human resources and payroll at ADP.

Throughout the last three decades, Lane has been looking for the connection between leadership in the military and leadership in business.

“I think I misunderstood military leadership when I was serving,” he explains. “There was definitely a hierarchy of authority, and in combat environments, that hierarchy is absolutely necessary. Outside of that, I felt a struggle. How do I balance being a transformational leader over transactional?”

Lane’s Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership courses helped him see things more clearly.

“Once I figured out that ‘transactional’ equals ‘supportive,’ and ‘transformational’ means ‘directive leadership,’ I understood how each of those comes into play,” he says.

Lane’s life journey has taken him from the military to companies and cities around the country – he’s been a retail district manager in Las Vegas; he held a sales role for financial company Ally; and he had a brief stint in Dallas; finally, he has a career with ADP in Phoenix.

Sitting down for an interview with UAGC, Lane described what he’s learned about leadership, how he applies lessons from school and the military to his career, and why he believes great leaders can never rest on their laurels.

Lane’s Lessons

Lane’s life has taken him from military service to college to the workforce, and through it all he has been guided by life lessons and a philosophy that keeps him focused. Here he shares a number of lessons that he’s learned throughout his journey.

  1. Time management applies to life, too: When most people think of time management, they think of how they can accomplish everything on their to-do list before the end of the workday. But time management, as Lane has learned, extends to everything in life and, notably, the stages of life. As time is the one thing you can never buy and never get back, Lane says you must be aware of “ticking clocks” and opportunities that could be missed if you don’t seize them in time. “I woke up one morning realizing that my GI Bill benefits from my service in the Global War on Terror had been revamped, and quickly realized that my time to use them was running out,” he explains. “I contacted a friend and peer who had earned an advanced degree and asked him if it would be worth my time to pursue my undergraduate degree. He recommended I take it on, and even said the opportunity to do it as an experienced adult student would likely be more fulfilling than that of a newly graduated high school student.” Seizing the moment is what led Lane to UAGC and set him up for the next chapter in his life. It was only possible, he says, because he took advantage of the time he was given before it was too late.
  2. Identify the right path to success: When a company parts ways with an employee, it may not always be someone’s “fault.” As Lane has learned in his career, there are times when high-achieving workers are placed in roles that aren’t the right fit for reasons that include everything from qualifications to a passion for the position. “When I first began my job, I was told that I would probably have to fire a team lead,” he recalls. He sat her down and figured out what gave her satisfaction, and as it turned out, it wasn’t a leadership role after all. He made the decision to move her into a contributor role without impacting her income, and they came to an agreement. “We helped her align to what she’s passionate about and what she’s strong at,” he explains. “I love seeing people succeed in a way they didn’t plan on.”
  3. Always look for agreement: As a leader, Lane is always teaching his team to look for agreement. That, he explains, is key to being effective. While attending UAGC and working at Ally, Lane and his entire team was realigned. He says several team members only thought about themselves when it came to their work, but they didn’t consider the team as a whole. The situation called for more harmony in the workplace, and Lane understood what needed to happen to resolve the issue. “I walked in, asked for them to come up with an agreement to make things work. It’s a pull, not a push. I don’t give expectations, instead I ask for agreements,” he explained.
  4. Listen carefully, and always verify information: When Lane first came into a business leadership role, he recognized that not every process at his organization was working. So, he embarked on a “listening tour” for the first 90 days, absorbing information and paying attention to “friction points” and the factors that influence them. This is part of the lifelong learning experience, he says. Once he had all the information, he was able to marry it with his own understanding of people and processes to form a new opinion or strategy. “When someone tells you something, it’s not always fact,” he says. “Anything someone is telling me, I verify.“ He says he learned this process while a student at UAGC. “I learned to say, ‘Here’s what I think, here’s what you think, and between the two of us, we’re making progress.’”

Connecting the Dots

For Lane, every life transition somehow informs the next, and he’s able to conjure a new professional philosophy from seemingly unconnected experiences.

Look no further than his time as a dog handler in the military, which he describes as “the best job I never planned on having,” he says.

Lane had spent time as a “crash test dummy” (wearing the padded suit that dogs would attack during training) and had an opportunity to go into the bomb detection program. The last dog he worked with, Gabriel, had come from a military breeding program, and “was the star of every show he was ever involved in.”

Lane and Gabriel would stage demonstrations for young audiences, and one day Lane noticed that a child was horrified watching the dog attack the “crash test dummy” wearing the suit.

He decided to lighten the mood.

“I had my leash, and asked the kids to imagine the leash was a snake, because that’s the only thing Gabriel was afraid of. I gave the dog a command, and it would leap into my arms. He was such a strong personality that I was training him to be a comedic actor.

“If we tie that back to where I am today, professionally, I still have that same approach. If we get into a high-stress environment, let’s have a laugh, and that’s how you survive.”

Lane’s Life Philosophy

Lane’s life philosophy, which mirrors his approach to leadership, is comprised of four tenets:

  1. Always think strategically. 
  2. Always be honest. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
  4. Earn the right to be productive.

“If we are thinking strategically, and it is always honest, we have the opportunity to be vulnerable,” Lane says. “That means we realize and recognize that we don’t have all the answers and we understand the power of being humble.

“That means we’ve earned the right to be protective.”

Life Doesn’t Stop, Why Should We?

Lane says his UAGC journey taught him how to be a lifelong learner because life doesn’t stop and wait for anyone to catch up. He considers himself fortunate to have found the University in the middle of his journey from “a young, unsure USAF Airman” to becoming a leader in business.

“One of the best pieces of advice I received from a professor at UAGC was to take all lessons in college and life and apply them to my experience and perspective to advance the thought to its next level,” Lane says. “UAGC taught me how to learn from life. I had confidence in my leadership ability before my degree. After earning my degree, I now have strength in it.”


Student success stories should not be interpreted as a promise or guarantee of career advancement or future earnings. The stories shared here represent the outcomes of individual students for illustrative purposes only.

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