We’ve all heard that leadership and influence can exist without a long title or an extensive résumé, but it can feel overwhelming to think about beginning to build influence in the role of someone in the early years of their career. That influence can feel further out of reach for women and members of the Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. As part of our internal event series for The Pathways Project, Hershey's African American Business Resource Group hosted Hershey Board of Director, Victor Crawford, on the power of influence and leadership at any level.
The event left quite an impact not only on myself, but on my colleagues as well. After the virtual fireside chat I looked up the definitions for “power” and “influence.” Power: the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way. Influence: the capacity to influence the character, development or behavior of someone or something.
I witnessed both during the event as Victor discussed two things that really stuck with me: he said “we’re all born to be leaders, but some of us choose not to be” and “once you stop learning, you stop living.” Hearing these statements come from someone with such great success and humble beginnings was very influential.
From the Gridiron to the Board Room
As Victor shared a little of his background, I realized that we had similar upbringings. Both of us have families that promoted education, and we both had high school and collegiate careers in athletics with a core focus on football. It was relatable when he mentioned that football played a role in developing his leadership skills as I, too, feel that the leadership skills I learned in football still impact me today in my professional life.
Victor continued to elevate his leadership skills beyond the gridiron and into corporate America. I found that very influential not only as a Black man in America, but also as a college student transitioning directly into the corporate world. His road map helped me better understand how to use influence in the corporate environment. For example, development of skillsets with the right mentor, nurturing the relationships with people who have similar intent and purposes, communicating with a passion that shapes stakeholder ideas, and creating 'WIN-WIN' situations are all important leadership skills.
As an individual contributor, I feel the reach of my power of influence—it’s endless. I’m going to ensure that I communicate with passion just like I would in the huddle on the field, take personal risks to develop influence and leadership skills and continue to build confidence in my leadership skills. Not only through the development of these skill but by using the power of influence to ensure I’m becoming a better leader at Hershey.
Influencing at Hershey
Hershey is a great place to develop these skills. The Hershey culture is unique. Although I have only been here for just over three years, it’s always felt more like a family. There have only been great examples of leadership throughout my career here. Those key relationships that I’ve developed and will continue to nurture will help me become a better leader. In the future, I look forward to applying the power of influence to continue to develop my career at Hershey.
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