The Most Generous Leader I Know

Recently my family vacationed in Amish country, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  While there, I had the opportunity to learn about the most generous leader I have ever heard of.  Ironically, we have all benefited and enjoyed the work and vision of this man.  His name is Milton Snavely Hershey, founder of Hershey Chocolate.

Here are some lessons I learned:

  1. Generous People Are Not Afraid To Fail – Hershey was terminated from his first job in the printing industry.  In addition, his two initial attempts to launch a candy business both failed, one due to a lack of funding and belief in him.  Generous people hold things loosely.
  2. Generosity Flows From What You Have, Not What You Do Not – When Hershey returned to Lancaster County, he took advantage of the hundreds of dairy farms in the area to start adding milk to his caramel.  This quickly made his third business, the Lancaster Caramel Company, a major success.  In 1900, Hershey sold the company for $1 million (est. at $24M+ in today’s dollars) and began manufacturing chocolate.  What are the assets that are all around you? 
  3. Generosity Benefits Others – With the advanced machinery he was now able to purchase and having proximity to an unlimited supply of dairy milk, mass production of chocolate began.  But Hershey wanted to do more than just make money, he desired a better quality of life for those in the Lancaster County area.
  4. Generosity Improves Human Life – Hershey began the development of a model town for his employees.  This construction would include quality homes with tree-lined streets, public transportation, the finest public schools, recreational facilities, and cultural opportunities.  This community would become known as Hershey, PA.  Hershey Park was then built in 1907 so the residents could have healthy diversions.  
  5. Increase Generosity During A Tough Economy – During the Great Depression, Hershey was proactive in ensuring the town and its people’s success.  While many business owners were cutting back dramatically, Hershey expanded operations so all people could have a place to work and be productive.  Because of his efforts, Hershey, PA had a remarkable 0% unemployment rate during the Great Depression!
  6. You Can’t Outgive God – Hershey Gave Away His Fortune – TWICE!  Unable to have children, he and his wife Kitty, both Mennonites,  founded the Hershey Industrial School, now called Milton Hershey School.  This amazing facility, which you will pass driving through downtown, houses and educates disadvantaged and abandoned children.  Upon her premature death in 1915, he transferred the majority of his assets, including the company, to the school.  In 1935 through the M. S. Hershey Foundation, he again endowed another $50 million to Penn State University for the construction of Hershey Medical Center.  Now a teaching hospital, you will also pass this incredible facility as you drive to the museum and theme park.

I was told by a local business owner that one of foundation’s major problems is that they simply have too much money.  It is true, it is impossible to outgive the God who provides every good and perfect gift.

It has been said about Hershey that “He was part of a forward-looking group of entrepreneurs in this country and abroad who believed that providing better living conditions for their workers resulted in better workers…Milton Hershey conceived of building a community that would support and nurture his workers. Developing the community became a lifelong passion for him.”

As a leader, think about that next time you eat a Hershey’s Kiss.  I know I will.

Leaders, especially business owners, are you focused strictly on the bottom line?  Or are you like Milton Hershey and more concerned with generosity and developing communities that are changing human life for generations?  I hope you’re the latter…and so do your employees.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

2 Responses to “The Most Generous Leader I Know”

  1. Developing a passion for the community is also a key factor in what I do. My goal is to create a desire in leaders to give back to the community. A leader, from my perspective, can be anyone who desires to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.

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