The FedEx School of Leadership Based on military principles.
One of the first things that you learn going through military officer training is this principle: “Your troops eat first. You eat last.”
Your Troops Eat First
In earlier times, this was simply a survival technique. First the horses were fed, then the soldiers,
then the officers. Over time, it was shortened to simply, “The troops eat first.”
This is just as relevant today as it was then, though for different reasons.
In the corporate world this simply means, “Take care of your people.”
I often tell C-level managers, leaders and executives this: you need to take care of your people first. Leadership is not about titles, positions, or glory. The best kind of leadership is about setting the example, influence, integrity, inspiration, and courage.
Frederick W. Smith, or Fred Smith, is the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx, a Fortune 100 company. Originally known as Federal Express, it is the first overnight express delivery company in the world, the largest in the United States and largest in the world.
What follows are Fred Smith’s comments on leadership and putting people first:
“The greatest leadership principle I learned in the Marine Corps was the necessity to take care of the troops in a high performance based organization.
“The Marine Corps’ strong emphasis on this overriding leadership requirement has been of inestimable importance to me in developing FedEx over the years. In the main, people want to be commited to an organization and to do a good job. The principles of leadership taught by the USMC, and based on two centuries of experience, will produce outstanding organizational results in any setting, if those principles are studiously followed.
“In short, FedEx owes its success to this simple truth.”
~ Fredrick W. Smith, Chairman of the Board and CEO of FedEx, formerly Captain, USMC
Talent is not enough.
The most talented, charismatic leader will destroy a business if there is a leadership or communication problem, and fellow employees and independent contributors are usually the first ones to know. Over time, influence becomes much more difficult to sustain. Your organizations survival depends on the ability to form trusting relationships.
As a leader, you build trust within your team each time you put the teams’ needs above your own. Each time you choose integrity over title, honor over personal comfort, truth over expediency.
If you fail to abide by this philosophy, eventually your team will leave.
You earn the right to be a leader. Your credibility is your leadership currency. With it? You are in the black.
The troops eat first.
Carey Lohrenz is the author of the Wall Street Journal Best Seller “Fearless Leadership: High-Performance Lessons from the Flight Deck.”, a motivational speaker and leadership expert.
Carey has flown missions worldwide as a combat-mission-ready United States Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot. Her extensive experience operating in one of the world’s most challenging environments, an aircraft carrier, and her unique position as one of the first female combat pilots make her the perfect opening or closing inspirational keynote speaker for your corporate meeting or conference.
Carey graduated from the University of Wisconsin where she was a varsity rower, also training at the Pre-Olympic level. After graduation, she attended the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School before starting flight training and her naval career. She is the mother of four kids, and is currently working on her Master’s in Business Administration in Strategic Leadership.