• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Stick to principle to earn trust

Get PDF file

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

By 1912, Milton Hershey realized that the chocolate company he had founded was taking off. Sales hit $5 million and fast growth meant the need for more workers.

His managers began recruiting newly arrived immigrants, mostly Italians, to work in the chocolate factory and other jobs at the Pennsylvania plant. The new hires performed well and often stayed with the company for decades.

But some faced prejudice at first.

At one point, Hershey learned that a group of locals were planning to attack some of his immigrant employees as they left the plant at the end of their shift. Unwilling to ignore the threat, he decided to take proactive steps to protect his workers.

Hershey hired a trusted contractor, John Wickersham, to accompany the immigrants as they left the company premises. Wickersham enlisted two foremen to serve as bodyguards.

As Wickersham led the group away from the factory, they confronted a much larger group of locals eager to pick a fight. Undaunted, Wickersham stepped to the front and stared down the would-be adversaries.

His courageous stance led the locals to back down. They retreated without throwing a punch.

For Wickersham, the incident underscores Hershey’s leadership: He took personal responsibility for the safety of his employees, even if it meant incurring the wrath of some townsfolk.

Hershey’s concern for his workforce paid lasting dividends. Employees worked harder and remained loyal to him because they admired Hershey and wanted to make the company a success.

— Adapted from Hershey, Michael D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster.

Leave a Comment