Ryan Stafford

Stafford has a soft-spot for the coast of Maine, sings a mean Elvis rendition, and knows his way around doing business in Asia

Ryan Stafford, Senior VP, Chief Legal Officer & CHRO, Littelfuse

I grew up in a small town in Maine where I learned the importance of family and to be respectful of others. The Yankee work ethic is real and was instilled in me at a young age.

I love the rugged beauty of Maine—the rocky coast, the pine forests, and that fresh, salt air. There’s nothing like it. My family and I go back every summer. Did I mention the lobster?

As a boy, I remember digging in the sand at the beach and my grandmother asking if I was trying to dig to China. I had no idea where or what she was talking about. Decades later, I’ve lived and worked there and it continues be important to our business.

There is no secret to working across cultures. Certain behaviors are universal: respect, humility, and humor.

My football coach at Bowdoin College taught me an important lesson in leadership: as quarterback, teammates watch how you conduct yourself and act accordingly. If people see you panicking or getting frustrated, they will follow suit. So stay calm, positive, and set the right tone. I have tried to do that throughout my career.

You get a lot of feedback while playing sports. Coaches constantly tell you what you’re doing right and doing wrong and how you can improve. You don’t get feedback at work like you do playing sports and that’s a shame. I’ve always sought feedback, and as a manager, I give a lot of it. People appreciate it.

Preparation is really the key. Things happen fast in today’s business environment. You need to read the playing field quickly and make good decisions under time constraints.

For more than 85 years, Littelfuse has fostered a culture that is built on core values of trust, integrity, teamwork, and respect. Our leadership team models that behavior, which makes my job much easier.

It is an exciting time to be at Littelfuse. The global trends that impact our business—the value of human life, safety, energy efficiency, and connectivity—are all favorable. Our products play a key role in all of those areas.

In college I did better in courses that interested me, even if they were outside of my major. Throughout my career, I’ve gravitated toward roles that do the same. That’s how I ended up living in Shanghai and working at Littelfuse. That has lead to managing not just the legal function, but also human resources and marketing-communications. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone.

If I won the lottery you’d find me teaching history and coaching high school football in Maine. I may do that regardless…

My favorite novel, is John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, I love the themes of faith and sacrifice in a world of doubt and injustice. It is beautifully written, and set in Exeter, New Hampshire, where I used to work.

When traveling in Asia, you need to have a couple of go-to karaoke songs. I recently had to sing an Elvis song in front of 500 business colleagues in China. I’d love to say that I killed it, but—well, let’s just say there’s a reason I’m a lawyer.