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Emotionally Intelligent Leadership at FedEx Express – a case study

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I thought I’d share this case study showing the power of emotionally intelligent leadership and how it was developed at Fedex. 

FedEx Express is the world’s largest cargo airline with over 290,000 employees moving seven million packages each day with 600 flights a day. 

While founder Fred Smith was focused on logistics and speed, from the start he believed that people were the key to business, and that leadership is about continuous growth.

The FedEx culture had focused on speed — which was and still is a key part of the company’s success.  As leaders moved up in the organization, the need for speed had to be balanced with a more careful, collaborative decision-making process to achieve sustainable success. In addition, in an extremely fast-paced, task-focused environment, a common challenge for managers was losing sight of the relational dynamics that ultimately sustain team performance ie. They were so task driven, they forgot about the people.  To build a team where people give their “discretionary effort,” task-based management was insufficient: people-leadership was required.  This meant forming a connection between people at an emotional level. 

“Emotionally intelligent leadership means forming a connection between people at an emotional level”

FedEx decided to increase the emotional intelligence focus of the leadership training and deliver a new course called LEAD1 to put EQ into action at the frontlines.  It was a five-day course with a six-month follow up coaching process. All new FedEx Express managers went through the program in order to provide a solid people-first foundation upon which to build their leadership careers.

In LEAD1, the new managers focused on how emotionally intelligent leadership would assist them by managing themselves first, taking charge of their own emotions and behaviors so they could be effective role models and influencers.

“44% of participants experienced very large increases in emotional intelligence”


In all the competencies of EQ 44% of the participants experienced very large increases (10-50% improvements).  The largest increases were the areas of “Apply Consequential Thinking” with 54% of the participants in this group experiencing large increases, and “Exercise Optimism” with 57% of the participants improving from 10-50%.


While the data are impressive, the human stories are just as compelling.  Behind a 20% increase in relationships, we heard the story of a leader rebuilding trust with her team, or a marriage staying together.  That 10% increase in Decision Making is a story of a new manager finally “getting it” that people are what create value and changing the way he treats people.

Participants have shared numerous stories of using the EQ tools to cope with loss, reunite with family members, step up to become better parents, and even make dramatic changes to improve health and wellbeing.  By supporting new managers in this way, FedEx gains by having more competent leaders – and also by showing its people that the company puts its values into action.  In turn, this role models the kind of people-centered leadership that FedEx expects from all managers.


The success of the project at FedEx offers several insights for other companies looking to gain value from emotional intelligence:

Link to what matters. 

The champions of this project have helped leaders see that the learnable skills of emotional intelligence are building blocks to create the kind of people-first leadership the company wants – which, in turn, increases economic value. 

Walk the Talk. 

The company tells supervisors to put people first, so the company puts people first.  By supporting new managers to be good people, and investing in their growth right at the start of their management careers, FedEx senior leadership is providing a powerful role model.

Emotions drive people, people drive performance.

For more information on Emotional intelligence training contact 


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JEM Management Training

JEM Management Training designs and delivers flexible, in-house management training courses to help  organisations in Perth engage their staff fully in the workplace.

As time is often limited, JEM Training offers flexible half-day management training courses which focus on a specific area of management expertise. These short courses build upon each other over a period of time, chosen by you, to provide ongoing management development.

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