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Frederick W. Smith and FedEx: Standards and Performance

Info: 7358 words (29 pages) Dissertation
Published: 4th Oct 2021

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Tagged: BusinessBusiness Strategy


This work is focused on the analysis of Federal Express, usually known by FedEx (Lussier & Achua, 2016). For 38 years FedEx has remained as the market leader in an industry that as a company, helped create it (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Customers usually connect the FedEx name with deliveries by the next day (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The strategic direction of the company of FedEx Corporation is in charge of its founder, Frederick W. Smith, who in addition to being the chairman of the board, is also the president and CEO of the company (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In this challenging 21st century, and with the intention of positioning the company within the market and its needs; Smith has segmented the company in an organized way into different strategic units (Lussier & Achua, 2016). These units are FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Office, FedEx Custom Critical, FedEx Trade Networks and FedEx Services (Lussier & Achua, 2016). With this new segmentation strategy in place, FedEx can serve more than 220 countries and territories with operations that include 643 aircraft and more than 80,000 vehicles (FedEx, 2016).

The case study answers aspects such as the standards established by Fred Smith for FedEx teams and how these improve organizational performance (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It also discusses what motivates FedEx members to remain very committed to their work teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

This paper also describes the role that FedEx managers, and how their performance facilitates the effectiveness of the equipment (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It establishes what type of equipment FedEx uses as well as the evidence to support the response (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It also exposes the essential role that leaders have in the formation of effective teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

This paper also analyzes the personality model of the Big Five and determines which of these dimensions Fred Smith possesses (Lussier & Achua, 2016). According to the model of normative leadership, the leadership styles practiced by FedEx team leaders are analyzed (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The specific guidelines that can help a leader to become an efficient coach are aired (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

This paper also analyzes what kind of followers exist in the FedEx work teams’ environment; and ends with the eloquent conclusions of the analysis of the Federal Express case (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

FedEx Company Profile

FedEx contains a workforce of more than 400,000 team members worldwide, which allows the corporation to handle more than 10.5 million shipments each day of work (FedEx, 2017). In 2016 FedEx exceeded $ 50 billion in revenue for the first time (FedEx, 2017). This financial milestone represented an increase of $ 2.9 billion and a growth rate of 6 percent compared to the previous year (FedEx, 2017).

The company continued with an upward development and strengthening, surpassing the company that Smith created at the beginning in 1971 (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Because of its commitment to total quality service, FedEx has been widely recognized; In 1990, Federal Express was the leading service company to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Similarly, FedEx has consistently been part of the Forbes magazine list, including “World’s Most Admired Companies,” “America’s Most Admired Companies,” “100 Best Companies to Work for,” and “Blue Ribbon Companies” (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Over the years, FedEx has grown vertiginously, and with it, the difficulties for coordination, the efficiency in maintenance, it became difficult to meet the expectations of customers, as well as the management of employees of their own company (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It did not take Smith a long time to realize that the way the company had been run in the past, with a rigid hierarchy of command and control groups, would only make the existing problems worse (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Employees needed the flexibility and freedom to move fast and help FedEx continue to be the dominant delivery service the next day in the world. For this reason, Smith restructured the company focused on using an accentuated support means on the teams to do the job (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith Led his team of leaders to empower these groups by giving them the authority and responsibility to make the necessary changes to improve productivity and customer satisfaction throughout the FedEx system (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

FedEx Operational Strategies

The operational strategies implemented by Smith jointly with the company’s leaders worked effectively and without problems at three different levels (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

First, FedEx competed collectively supporting its worldwide mark united in one voice (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Second, FedEx operated independently and focused on culturally independent networks in order to meet the needs of consumers (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

And third, FedEx implemented collaborative management working together to build a loyal relationship with the workforce, consumers, and investors (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

FedEx, a real example of successful implementation with a new focus on organizing work, is palpable in Springfield, Virginia (Lussier & Achua, 2016). There is strong support from its managers, where employees formed the team they called “Quality Action Team” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The fundamental objective of these teams is to supervise their packet classification techniques (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

As a result of the strategic implementation of the operations the couriers were 12 minutes earlier in their regular routes compared to the time used in the past by them; With this, the late delivery of packages was halved (Lussier & Achua, 2016). These local results, which were evidently positive, encouraged Smith and his team of leaders to create the same quality action groups in all the company’s projects (Lussier & Achua, 2016). When FedEx had to face the tough competition amongst United Parcel Service, the U.S. Postal Service, and Airborne Express, the company had to organize super-teams composed of up to 10 administrative employees following the original initiative of the participative employees from Springfield, Virginia (Lussier & Achua, 2016). These teams operated in a self-directed manner with a minimum of direct supervision of the managers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The implementation of these teams resulted in 13% unexpected failures, such as lost packages and incorrect invoices (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Another team achieved a save to the company of 2.1 million dollars after detecting and solving a billing problem (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

FedEx Leadership Style

Fred Smith sets standards and reinforces them to allow FedEx teams to work with excellence, and that group-focused leadership and results have been the main reason for the success they have had (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Smith also directed the “golden package” concept, which consists of the idea that all the packages that FedEx manages are a priority and must be delivered on time (Lussier & Achua, 2016). For example, sometimes by a competitive pressure or by Mother Nature, it forces to maintain the aircraft of the company on the ground. The team with the golden package is in charge of deciphering how to make the delivery in terms and in time, and in this way eliminate the crisis (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Each month a recognition called “Circle of excellence to the best FedEx station” is given to reinforce the performance of the groups (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith similarly encourages creative thinking by developing a “safe work environment.” He assumes the position that “reprimanding those who try to do something that does not work well, will only get to people who do nothing,” so it is better to stimulate positively to achieve positive changes without hurting the self-esteem of employees (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

At FedEx, managers never become obsolete; Smith redefines their roles so that this never happens (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith has abandoned his traditional management approach centered on the leader and replaced it with the team-centered approach (Lussier & Achua, 2016). He gives the necessary flexibility and freedom to his managers, whom he expects, formulates clear and achievable goals for their teams, who solicit ideas from employees and who act with the best suggestions of them, for the benefit of all (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In FedEx, managers are aware that their role within the company is that of facilitators and sometimes they assume it. And this last demonstrated that when in emergency situations in downtown Memphis, senior managers have abandoned their executive positions and have rushed to help load packages on the conveyor belt that provides the company’s aircraft (Lussier & Achua, 2016). FedEx managers practice team leadership through their own example (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Frederick W. Smith has jointly built with FedEx managers and employees, the most homogeneous global air and ground network in the package delivery industry, which connects more than 90% of global economic activity” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Undoubtedly, Smith has implemented a flexible and team-focused leadership strategy, allowing FedEx to be a much more open organization, and to stay himself as the company’s leader (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Unmistakably this last is one of the reasons why FedEx remains with the highest scores in the industry, which leads the organization to be one of the leading companies with better conditions to work in the United States (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Case Analysis

How do the standards set by Fred Smith for FedEx teams improve organizational performance?

Fred Smith restructured the company focused on the teams to do the work (Lussier & Achua, 2016). He led his leadership team to empower these groups by giving him the authority and responsibility to make needed changes to increase productivity and client satisfaction everywhere the FedEx system (Lussier & Achua, 2016). He organized his employees into teams of up to 10 people (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In my opinion, Frederick W Smith eliminated the bureaucratic administrative levels and focused on optimizing the performance of the teams, which are completely focused on results and employees (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Below some of the actions implemented by Smith:

  • Smith performed the “Trans-functional Team,” which is made up of members from different functional specialties within the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). For example, in the team “Gold Package” since several employees from different areas do everything possible so that the package is delivered on time, involves different employees depends on all for delivery on time (Lussier & Achua, 2016).
  • Implemented the “Virtual Team” because the members are distributed geographically, which requires them to work through electronic media with minimal interactions face to face since FedEx serves more than 220 countries and territories, this allows FedEx to meet the needs of its customers (Lussier & Achua, 2016).
  • Implemented “Self-directed Teams” because members share leadership responsibilities and are mutually responsible for a set of performance goals to provide empowerment where success was achieved because Fred Smith established standards and reinforces them with the minimal direct supervision of management. An example in “Super-team” (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

What motivates the members of FedEx to remain highly engaged in their teams?

Smith decided to restructure the company and emphasized his focus on the teams to do the job. In this way, Smith gave employees the flexibility and freedom, with minimal supervision, they needed to move fast and help FedEx remain the dominant delivery service the next day in the world (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It is very evident that Smith became a team leader according to the Leadership Grid Theory developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, of the University of Texas, and published in 1964 (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The team leader shows great interest in the production and for the people that make up the team (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This leader supports maximum performance and satisfaction of the employees involved in the processes (Lussier & Achua, 2016). According to Blake and Mouton, this style of team leadership, in general, is the most appropriate to adopt in all situations (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This leadership focused on the work groups allowed FedEx to encourage its employees to innovate and make decisions that allowed finding real and quality solutions (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith also provided employees with the information, and the technological support they need to continuously increase their performance (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In addition to the mentioned above, FedEx members remained very committed to their teams, because according to the research done at the University of Iowa, by Kurt Lewin and his associates, on leadership styles; The style that Smith implemented was the “Democratic Leadership Style” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The democratic leader supports participation in decision making, works with employees to determine what to do and does not closely supervise workers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It is evident that the traits and attitudes of Smith’s leadership personality and his managers directly affected his behavior and his relationship with employees (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Federal Express recognizes the efforts of team members, knows that it is essential for a motivated and satisfied workforce (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith knows that recognition stimulates new ideas and fosters better performance and team spirit; And for that reason, Federal Express offers a monthly recognition called Circle of Excellence to the best FedEx station. It also encourages creative thinking by creating a “safe work environment” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This environment was a high cohesion indicative and team’s interdependence (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Team cohesion is the degree to which team members come together and remain committed to achieving the team’s goals. Highly cohesive teams are also described as those that show high group potential and strong personal effectiveness (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The cohesion of the team increases when its members agree on a common goal and direction; external parties provide countless accolades and recognition for the team’s success; the organization encourages and motivates the teams to compete with each other for the rewards; members find that they have common causes and similar attitudes and values ​​as well as enjoy being on the team (Lussier & Achua, 2016). All these aspects mentioned above are present within FedEx, turning it into a cohesive company (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The role FedEx managers play in facilitating team effectiveness

The tough competition within the industry forced FedEx to create an entrepreneurial spirit that contagious the labor force at all levels of the company, and to achieve this, Smith communicated his vision through the leaders to all personnel within the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This allowed the implementation of Smith’s vision and his corresponding strategies, to all the groups and their members (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Federal Express made this possible through communication and collaboration (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The role of FedEx managers to facilitate the effectiveness of the team was vital; they set standards and reinforcements (abolition of the rigid vertical hierarchy of command and control of leadership, instead, they used a flexible “horizontal” model) (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

They created the necessary conditions to define the structure of the team, which was nothing more than the interrelation that determined the assignment of tasks, responsibilities, and authority (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In other words, the structure of the team determined a horizontal, “flat” model (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The horizontal model allows decentralized decisions to be made, and it is designed for teams with high performance and great decision-making authority and responsibility for results (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The degree of interdependence and autonomy of the members of FedEx teams is identified as a key structural component that influenced the team’s effectiveness (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The teams were self-managed with little direct supervision from the managers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The teams that have a high autonomy, great participation in team decisions and diversity in the tasks performed by the individual members, show the motivational characteristics of the design of positions (Lussier & Achua, 2016). When teams perceive tasks as motivating, they are usually more effective (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The members of the FedEx team had an absolute commitment to the issues and solutions of their team for the benefit of all, a factor that motivated the players of the team (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Smith’s transformational leadership was key to motivate FedEx teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In this type of leadership, it is recognized that one of the most important factors of any company is human capital (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The triumph or failure of the organization depends to a large extent on the knowledge, interests, motivations, and skills of the workers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). However, despite the fact that a company has involved and talented workers, the presence of a leader is needed to guide, coordinate and motivate the work of each member of the team in order to achieve business objectives, as Frederick W. Smith did (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The characteristics that define this transformational leader profile are that it encourages the creative participation of the workers; believe in the team’s members; cares for others; motivates teams; He inspired the members of his team and was not afraid to take risks (Lussier & Achua, 2016). All these factors mentioned above, without a doubt, portray Smith’s profile the principal motivator (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The type of teams FedEx uses

Self-Managed Teams

Smith restructured the company and emphasized its focus on the teams to do the job (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith addressed his leadership team to help empower these groups by taking power and responsibility to make the necessary changes to increase productivity and customer satisfaction within the FedEx Corporation (Lussier & Achua, 2016). According to the case study, FedEx created “Quality Action Teams” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). These teams functioned as “Self-Managed Teams” with little direct supervision from management (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Self-directed teams are a model of work organization growing in many organizations (Lussier & Achua, 2016). They are the same self-directed groups that design the work to be carried out and also the operation is executed (Lussier & Achua, 2016). They are not organized with the traditional hierarchy and bureaucracy where each team member performs a task according to the complexity of their position, but rather the tasks are distributed depending on the wishes of each team member (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Decisions are made collectively because there is no leader or leader who has more power than the rest (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Self-directed teams not only perform a particular job based on a product or service, but they manage that work completely (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Instead of organizing work according to the traditional Taylor model, reducing a process in steps, the work is restructured around the whole process (Lussier & Achua, 2016). There must be shared interdependence and responsibilities to obtain results (Lussier & Achua, 2016). While the usual system reduces the skills required at each level of work, causing boredom and boredom in the lower job categories, the system of self-managed teams, integrate the needs of people with the work to be done. Self-managed teams are strongly connected to empowerment (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Empowered people assume responsibility for their work as if it were personal as if they owned the business (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The Federal Express (FedEx) messaging firm, with a presence in more than 220 destinations around the world, experienced the benefits of this system by eliminating 13% of errors in the service (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Cross-Functional Teams

The success of the teams at departmental or local levels encouraged Smith and his leadership team to also assign teams of employees to projects throughout the company (Lussier & Achua, 2016). When facing the increasing competition of United Parcel Service, the U.S. Postal Service, and Airborne Express, FedEx organized its administrative employees in “super teams” of up to 10 people; which shows that FedEx is also supported by “Cross-Functional Teams” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Cross-functional teams are an effective way that allows people from different areas of an organization, (or even between organizations) to exchange information, develop new ideas, solve problems and complex coordinate projects (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Of course, it is not a field day to administer the Cross-functional teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Its early stages often consume a lot of time, while its members learn to work with diversity and complexity (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It takes time to establish trust and teamwork, especially with people with different backgrounds, different experiences, and perspectives (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Increasingly, organizations find external environments which are complex and very dynamic, they also demand less hierarchical structures. In summary, it could be said that “Cross-functional Teams” are constituted by members of different functional departments of an organization who meet to perform unique tasks in order to create new or non-routine products or services (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The premise behind the concept of the Cross-functional Team is that the interaction, cooperation, coordination, information sharing and cross-fertilization of ideas among people from different functional areas (production, marketing, research and development and others) achieves product-services of better quality with shorter development cycles (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Leaders play a critical role in building effective teams

Cite evidence from the case that FedEx managers performed some of these roles in developing effective teams.

The most relevant evidence of the role played by managers in the creation of stronger and more effective work teams can be seen from the beginning, when Frederick W. Smith took his first steps (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith, to give his employees the flexibility and freedom they needed to move quickly in the performance of their work, and to help FedEx to remain the number one service in the world, of package delivery the next day, Smith, modified the structure of the company emphasizing the focus on the teams to do the work (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith, gave the first example, and directed his leadership team to empowerment these working groups and grant them the authority and responsibility to make the necessary changes in order to increase productivity and consumer satisfaction within the FedEx organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Smith, in his role as CEO, president and founder of Federal Express, worked hard and committed to his company’s teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016). He established policies that adjusted the need for teamwork and made sure to reinforce them (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith promoted the change from a rigid hierarchy that existed, to a flexible, effective leadership with a horizontal structure, necessary for the difficult time that the company was going through (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The empowerment of employees, the rewarding of successful teams, and the correct reorientation of their managers when assuming exclusive functions are factors that show Smith’s effort to achieve excellent team service within the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). FedEx managers changed their role from traditional authority to a contemporary role focused on the configuration of effective teams (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This shows that managers palpably were willing to effectively support teamwork and promote the necessary leadership to development teams within the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

In summary, the empowerment of the work teams allowed the creation of Quality Action Teams, so that employees could think freely in sensible and effective solutions, under very little administrative supervision (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This homogeneous environment full of real freedoms, and developed by FedEx managers, allowed the teams to be more creative and provide ideas and suggestions that were implemented by them, of solutions to find the best way to overcome the crisis (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The managers helped the employees that made up the workgroups, to see the company as if it were theirs, this was possible because the possible benefits would be for everyone, and could only be achieved, through the joint effort (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Additionally, managers helped employees design a transparent and credible process, and preached by example; Sometimes, they had left their executive positions to work together with the employees, taking packages to the conveyor belts (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Group and organizational performance also affect individual performance (Lussier & Achua, 2016). If the members of the group and the group itself are highly motivated and productive (or not), there is also a likelihood that the individual will be productive (or not) (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Success tends to be contagious (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Working for a winning organization, such as FedEx, tends to motivate individuals to do their best to stay on top (Lussier & Achua, 2016). However, an organization and its performance are more than the simple sum of its individuals and groups, and it is also its leadership (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The Big Five model of personality

The Big Five model of personality categorizes traits into dimensions of surgency, agreeableness, adjustment, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. Which of these dimensions do you think Fred Smith possesses?

In 1970, Fred Smith came up with the idea of ​​creating a parcel service company that offered services during the night (Gale, 2005). In 1971, he founded FedEx, and since then, Smith has been an active supporter of regulatory reform, free trade and open skies agreements for aviation around the world (FedEx, 2018(a)). More recently, he has defended the standards of energy efficiency of vehicles and national energy policy (FedEx, 2018(a)). What at first seemed foolish to everyone, Fred Smith made his FedEx company 13 years later to become a leader in the sector, with approximately $ 1 billion in annual turnover (FedEx, 2018(a)). The intuitive and charismatic capabilities of Fred Smith as a leader made his success possible (Gale, 2005). His determined and magnetic spirit led him to follow his instinct despite criticism (Gale, 2005). Fred Smith opts for a participative leadership that, together with his empathic and familiar personality, makes him one of the leaders most loved by his employees, whom he treats with the same respect regardless of the hierarchical link in which they are (Gale, 2005). His motto and FedEx corporate philosophy are “People-Service-Profits,” being clear the importance it gives to human value over the material (FedEx, 2018(c)). One of the most important things in the CEO of FedEx is that he knows how to transmit his passion for what he does, which generates a genuine enthusiasm in his more than 400,000 employees (FedEx, 2018(b)).


It is more than evident that Frederick W. Smith does not present a surgency personality. Smith’s vision and the implementation of strategies that promote flexibility and the freedom of his managers and employees, clearly show that he has no extroversion personality traits(Lussier & Achua, 2016). The personality dimension of extroversion includes leadership and extroversion features (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Those who possess marked dominant personality traits want to assume responsibilities (Lussier & Achua, 2016). His dominant behavior ranges from the interest in excelling and leading through competition and influence (Lussier & Achua, 2016). People without a domain prefer to be followers and do not seek to compete or influence (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Extroversion is located on a continuum between extroverted and introverted (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Extroverts are open, like to meet new people, are assertive and are willing to confront others, while introverts are sullen (Lussier & Achua, 2016). If I had to define, personally I consider that Smith is an extroverted leader (Lussier & Achua, 2016).


For a person who prioritizes the value of human capital over the material, it is more than evident that he pleases others (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Without a doubt, Smith possesses all the characteristics, according to his example as a leader, of being an affable person (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The Agreeableness personality dimension includes traits related to congeniality with people (Lussier & Achua, 2016). An affable personality behavior is intense when a person is called candid and affectionate, easy to live with and trustworthy, compassionate and gentle, friendly and sociable; affable behavior “is not present,” when an individual is called cold, difficult, unsympathetic, unfriendly and unsociable (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Strongly affable personality types like to socialize, spend most of their time with people and have many friends (Lussier & Achua, 2016).


The consistent manner in which Smith took the FedEx company along with the work groups demonstrates that he has personality characteristics of adjustment focused on stability only (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The implementation of new forms of flexible leadership, the eloquence in his daily behavior, his easy to interrelate with his managers and employees, the way in which he establishes his priorities, are factors that show in a great level of emotional stability that exists in him (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The personality dimension of adjustment includes features related to emotional stability (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The adjustment is situated on a continuum between stability and emotional instability (Lussier & Achua, 2016). With stable reference is made to self-control, to be calm to bear the pressure, to be relaxed, to be safe and positive, to praise others; With unstable (also called neuroticism) is alluded to lose control to yield under pressure, to be nervous, insecure, negative and hostile and criticize others (Lussier & Achua, 2016).


The credibility, conformity, responsibility, trust, and organization, are undoubtedly the characteristics that define and converge in Smith’s personality (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith has a conscientious personality focused strongly on positive achievements in every way (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The FedEx company, under the leadership of Smith, has continued to strengthen its leadership in the industry for the preceding 38 years and has been widely recognized for its commitment to total quality service (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Only a leader with the characteristics that define Smith’s personality would be able to succeed achievements of that magnitude (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The personality dimension of conscientiousness comprises traits related to achievements (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Conscientiousness also lies on a continuum between being responsible and trustworthy and being irresponsible and unreliable (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Other features of high scrupulosity include credibility, compliance, and organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Those who possess this trait are characterized by being willing to work hard and to dedicate additional time and effort to meet goals and achieve success; It is also known as citizenship behavior of the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Openness to Experience

With the growth of FedEx, coordination difficulties also increased, maintaining efficiency was very cumbersome, and in the same way, satisfying customer expectations and managing employees was almost impossible (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith realized that a rigid hierarchy of command and control groups would only magnify these problems, and was willing to “change” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). To give his employees the flexibility and freedom they needed to move fast and help FedEx continue to be the dominant delivery service the next day in the world, Smith, “I try new things,” decided to restructure the company by emphasizing the focus of teams to do the work, without a doubt, Smith was “innovative” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Smith was “unhappy” yet, and led his leadership team to empower these groups by giving them the authority and responsibility to make the necessary changes to improve productivity and customer satisfaction throughout the system (Lussier & Achua, 2016). FedEx, also Smith showed to be unconventional and autonomous (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The personality dimension of openness to experience includes features related to the willingness to change and try new things (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Those who show this feature are imaginative, nonconformist, unconventional and autonomous, while those who manifest a low dimension of openness shy away from change and new experiences (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Leadership Styles Practiced by FedEx Team Leaders

The normative leadership model identifies five leadership styles appropriate for different situations that users can select to maximize decisions. Which of the five leadership styles is practiced by FedEx team leaders?

In 1973, leadership theorists, Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton, proposed the normative leadership model that focused on how a leader interacts with his subordinates (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This theory explains how a manager involves his subordinates in making decisions that affect the workplace (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The model also appears in the lack of time, the quality of the decisions and the satisfaction of the employees (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Obviously, the leadership style practiced by FedEx team leaders is the “Style that Facilitates” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In this style, the leader holds a group meeting and acts as a facilitator to determine the obstacle and the boundaries within which a decision must be made (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The leader seeks participation and agreement about the decision without imposing his ideas (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The managers at FedEx are never obsolete; Smith redefined their roles so that this does not happen (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The traditional leadership form centered on the leader was abolished, and the team-centered approach was implemented instead (Lussier & Achua, 2016). FedEx managers formulate clear and achievable goals for their teams, ask employees for ideas to find solutions to problems and implement suggestions for the benefit of all (Lussier & Achua, 2016). FedEx managers perceive their role as facilitators and sometimes assume it, working directly as another member of the work team, far from their executive functions (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The case reveals that at the Memphis hub senior managers have been known to hurry down from the executive suite to help load packages during emergencies in order to get the plane off on time. FedEx leaders want to be seen as coaches, not managers. Specific guidelines can help a leader become an effective coach. Which of the guideline(s) does the example above represent?

We can define leadership coaching as a personal development process designed to improve the success of a leader in achieving their professional goals within the context of an organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Coaching focuses on the individual, but it also brings great benefits for the organization (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Benefits such as the attraction and development of talent, increases in productivity and greater satisfaction at work (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Those individuals who have achieved great achievements and have inspired others to achieve superior achievements are the main candidates for leadership coaching (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

The specific guidelines can help a leader become an efficient coach, develop a supportive working relationship; give praise and recognition; avoid guilt and shame; focus on the behavior, not the person; have employees evaluate their own performance; give specific and descriptive feedback; provide coaching feedback; provide modeling and training; make timely, but flexible comments, and do not criticize (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Based on the previous example, where it reveals that the top managers in the center of Memphis come down from their executive positions to help load the packages during emergencies in order for the plane departs on time; And where FedEx leaders want to be considered as coaches, and not as managers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The guideline that the previous example represents is “developing a supportive employment relationship” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In this guideline, the experienced boss must be a coach for the newcomers (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The investigation has shown that the most significant contributor to the success of employees and their retention in the company is their relationship with the leader. This and the employee do not have to be personal friends and socialize together; it’s about having a good working relationship (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In his dealings with followers, he must communicate his interest in them as individuals and his commitment to providing them with coaching that will lead them to success (Lussier & Achua, 2016). A supportive work relationship can foster enthusiasm and commitment to continuous performance improvement (Lussier & Achua, 2016).

Types of Followers in FedEx Teams

Research on followership describes five types of followers. Which of these types will work best in FedEx’s team environment as described in the case, and why?

The followers that have been evidenced by the FedEx case study are the “Effective followers” (Lussier & Achua, 2016). This type of follower presents a lot of critical thinking and a lot of participation (Lussier & Achua, 2016). He has no aversion to risk nor is he shy of conflict (Lussier & Achua, 2016). It encourages to initiate change and confront conflicts (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Find the best interest of the organization, responsible, someone who can be trusted (Lussier & Achua, 2016). A follower is the one who receives influence from a leader (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The follower may or may not be a manager (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Good followers are not “yes people” who only follow the leader without offering contributions that influence the leader (Lussier & Achua, 2016). In short, effective leaders influence followers and these, in turn, influence those (Lussier & Achua, 2016). The qualities necessary for effective leadership are the same as those required to be an effective follower (Lussier & Achua, 2016). Good followers offer suggestions and influence leaders (Lussier & Achua, 2016). If an employee desires to be an effective follower, they should share their ideas. As the leader also needs to listen to others and implement their ideas to be effective (Lussier & Achua, 2016).


In 1971 Frederick Wallace (Fred) Smith had a revolutionary idea, delivering packages reliably overnight (Gale, 2005). With the creation of the Federal Express Corporation, Smith not only offered an alternative to more traditional and slower delivery services, but he also created an industry that has almost changed the way business is done on its own (Gale, 2005). But Federal Express and Smith were not just looking to provide fast and reliable deliveries to customers around the world (Gale, 2005). At the heart of the organization’s progress was Smith’s true philosophy, people, service, benefit (Gale, 2005). To do this, Smith worked hard to be accessible to his employees and clients with a management style that combines vision, risk-taking, a sense of community, and an inflexible approach (Gale, 2005).

Despite the competition and intense financial setbacks, that he may have faced, Smith continued persevering his project (Gale, 2005). His triumph came in part because of his capacity to understand the changing needs of the business (Gale, 2005). Undoubtedly, one of Smith’s most resounding successes was the creation of a corporate culture that inspires strong loyalty to the organization and its founder (Gale, 2005).

For everyone, Smith was a boss who worked hard and was accessible to his employees (Gale, 2005). He was known by has been visiting the Memphis headquarters every afternoon and greeting many of the employees by name (Gale, 2005). He also offered a permanent invitation to any employee with ten years of service to get at Memphis for breakfast with the boss (Gale, 2005). Although gregarious by nature, Smith tended to stay out of the neon light; when necessary, however, he showed that he was capable of passionate and thoughtful analysis of the state of business in the United States and the world (Gale, 2005). As a true believer in the advent of the global economy, Smith saw the future with the creation of Federal Express; and its risk-taking established a standard by which other companies are often forced to measure themselves (Gale, 2005). Without fear of new technologies, Smith saw them as a challenge that must be mastered, implemented and used to improve the global community (Gale, 2005).


FedEx. (2016, May 31). FORM 10-K. Retrieved April 6, 2018, from UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION: http://d1lge852tjjqow.cloudfront.net/CIK-0001048911/0585489f-5de5-4f89-81bd-5b75272f6915.pdf

FedEx. (2017). 2017 Global Citizenship Report. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from FedEx: http://csr.fedex.com/pdfs/FedEx_2017_Global_Citizenship_Report.pdf

Fedex. (2018(a)). Frederick W. Smith. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from FedEx Leadership: https://about.van.fedex.com/our-story/leadership/frederick-w-smith/

Fedex. (2018(b)). Policy Perspectives Overview. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from About FedEx: https://about.van.fedex.com/point-of-view/policy-perspectives/

Fedex. (2018(c)). FedEx Attributes Success to People-first Philosophy. Retrieved April 7, 2018, from About FedEx: http://www.fedex.com/ma/about/overview/philosophy.html

Gale, T. (2005). Fred Smith 1944. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/social-sciences-and-law/business-leaders/fred-smith#1G23448500541

Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2016). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development (6e ed.). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Cengage Learning.

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