Profiles in Leadership: Celebrating Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, we highlight some of our African American team members who share their perspectives on inspiration, motivation, and leadership. Read their thoughts below.
Steve Griffin, Regional Vice President Gulf Region, FedEx Ground
As I reflect on Black History and the pivotal role that countless African Americans have achieved and contributed to the fabric of America, I instantly think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For me, Dr. King represents the true notion of the best that America can be.
Dr. King had the ability to unite, influence and inspire people across generations — demanding that one gives the best version of themselves, in order to drive purposeful action, which in turn, produces hope and love for all of humanity.
Dr. King’s dream held America true to its founding principles – justice, equality and peace for all; regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and ability. I would love to have a conversation with Dr. King and I’d ask him: “How are we, as an American society, doing with honoring your dream?”
I believe Dr. King would say that the full dimension of his vision is still a work in progress and there’s still much work in America that needs to be done. I challenge all of us to reflect and dig deeper within ourselves to become advocates that elevate Dr. King’s dream in all that we do, 365 days a year.
Gina Adams, Corporate Vice President, Government Affairs
Today, I’m reminded of a brilliant, soft-spoken patriot—long departed—who foresaw our country in 2018. He loved it deeply enough to believe in our possibilities and honestly enough to call us out when we fell short. While looking back at MLK Jr’s murder and America’s promise, he once wrote “the moral of the story (and the hope of the world) lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself”.
Usually, our motivations to do our best are mixed, driven by ideals, practicality, selfishness and spirituality, and I am no different. But I know we all will ultimately despair if we cannot—or will not—find an equilibrium between our own needs and a more outwardly-focused view of what it should mean to be an American today. Dreams do matter, particularly in this age of tribalism, fear and cynical attacks on truth, enabled by the easy anonymity of the internet that is, finally, a form of cowardice.
I don’t want to dust off my dog-eared copy of The Green Book and I don’t want ANYONE else to have to either. We can all be better; we can all do better. This is my hope.
What is your ultimate goal?
Steven Sanders, Sr. Marketing Specialist, DA Global Programs, FedEx Services
My ultimate goal is to leave the world in a better place than I found it, by having a positive impact on those that I have the privilege to come in contact with on a daily basis. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I’ve never really feared the idea of death, but rather dying and not having added something to the world. It’s with this thought that I try my best to put my time, effort, and resources into people and things that ultimately seek to do the same thing. Realizing that my life is not my life, but a life that I’ve been blessed with bears a significant amount of responsibility to make something of it and not squander it. I believe that I can do this by dedicating myself to my family, friends, and community that mean the world to me, with the focus of making a genuine positive impact, in whatever capacity it calls for. At times I’m called to lead, at others to support, and even at others to just get out of the way. My goal is to leave, having it matter that I existed.
Janas Jackson, Diversity & Inclusion Advisor, FedEx Express
When it comes to heroes, I continue to be inspired by two individuals of another era — my maternal great-grandfather, Alex Miles, and his slavemaster’s son, Theodore Brevard. Alex was born on the Brevard plantation in Montgomery, Alabama and was nine years old when slaves were freed. Alex’s chore as a slave child had been to escort the slavemaster’s three children to and from school each day. The two daughters would ride one horse and Theodore, the son, would ride the other. Young Alex would walk, leading the horses. One day, Theodore told Alex, “I don’t think it’s right that we can go to school and you can’t so I’m going to teach you how to read, write and do arithmetic.” Theodore secretly became Alex’s teacher and gave him pages to study but warned him to hide this material because what he was doing was against the law. Alex studied every day and kept the pages hidden in his bosom until they became as limp as rags. My great-grandfather later became a minister, landowner and businessman. By 1900, he had employed 75 people. His youngest daughter, my grandmother, always shared this story of how two courageous children worked together to make a difference. They are my heroes.
Randy Irving, Manager, Human Resources, FedEx Services
I am motivated by many of the influences that shaped me growing up. My father was a truck driver and my mother an assembly line worker. They both believed in working hard and being disciplined in your approach to work. Growing up in Binghampton (a neighborhood in Memphis, TN) provided me with lessons, images and memories that have motivated me my whole life. The memory of childhood friends that went astray, thoughts of those that didn’t have opportunities and the angst of being told what you would not be has provided fuel that still motivates me to this day. I am motivated to be a representative for those that I felt did not and do not have a voice.
What’s your definition of success, and how do you/did you achieve it?
Camille D. Washington, Manager, Segment Engagement Strategy, FedEx Services
My definition of success is two-fold. It is accomplishing my goals, which then allows me to be positioned to help others. I fully subscribe to the belief that to whom much is given much is required. I have been given much therefore I strive to give much.
I am well aware of that fact that I am standing on the shoulders of others who have gone before me. Some people I know, many I do not. Numerous barriers to success have been challenged and removed which continues to allow me the opportunity to accomplish my goals. So I share my knowledge, experiences, skills, and abilities with others to help them obtain the goals they have set out to accomplish. It is very gratifying to see others achieve their dreams and knowing that I was positioned to help them in some way.
How is success measured and realized?
Sequoyah Lewis, Global Marketing Foundations, Associate Marketing Specialist, FedEx Services
I believe that success is measured by results and how fulfilled I feel when achieving those results. Success is an ongoing process that requires hard work, dedication, and planning. My success is explicitly calculated by results, ensuring that they are trackable and obtainable.
Before one can obtain success, they must set themselves up for success! Here’s an example of how I set myself up for success: First I decide what my aspirations in life are (personal and professional), what necessary steps are needed to get there, and the obstacles I can expect to encounter during the process. I enjoy creating goals, whether it be short, mid, or long-term goals because it gives me something to work towards. Once I set my goals, I then develop an action plan and possible outcomes. My personal success story is how I embarked on my career at FedEx; during my time in college, I created three mid-term goals upon graduation and within those goals listed my action plans. I concentrated in Marketing, obtained a Marketing internship, performed well, and later landed a full-time job on the Global Marketing Foundations team.
What’s been your best lesson learned?
Lewis Fort, Program Management Advisor, Global Business Transformation, FedEx Express
As a FedEx intern, my mentor taught me the value of listening to understand before offering an opinion. Often times, we listen to respond instead of listening to understand and as a result we miss out on absorbing vital information. By listening to those around me, I was able to develop a core understanding of the business while also building relationships.
After undergrad, I worked in London at a financial institution. The company I worked for was fast paced, extremely large and diverse. Most of the projects I worked on were with colleagues who lived in other parts of the world. When working with peers domiciled all over, the downside was there are only so many hours in the day where you are actually in the office at the same time, as a result it taught me how to use that time to communicate effectively.
Lastly, no one ever said learning was going to be easy, but it’s part of the process of evolving as a person, and we all have to go through it. Looking back, I appreciate all the difficult times because I learned a lot about myself.
Tiffany Brunson, Managing Director, Sr. Litigation/Employment Counsel, FedEx Office
I’m most proud of the fact that I have been able to accomplish significant success in my career without compromising my values, my integrity or the principles for which I stand. I take great pride in this because I recognize that I am standing on the shoulders of my grandmother and so many other high character role models who sacrificed to pave the way for me to break barriers. I am incredibly grateful for this, and it motivates me to inspire others to achieve greatness.
Jeff Greer, Sr. Vice President, Human Resources, FedEx Freight
To emerging leaders, I encourage you to reflect upon the opportunity you have been given. It’s a privilege so few will ever enjoy. You will influence so many people and impact so many lives. Recognize that leadership carries with it lots of responsibilities.
One key to your success is that you appreciate the enormous shadow you cast for those who follow you. Be mindful of that. Embrace this powerful achievement by seizing the opportunity to do great things. Focus on what’s good for the organization, group or team you are leading.
Understand that you succeed only when those you lead succeed. Surround yourself with people who have diverse opinions and be willing to listen.
Always be humble and remember how you got to this point. The good choices you made in getting you here should be carried forward as you embark upon your new role. In fact, your choices become even more meaningful at this point.
But whatever you do, have some fun. You deserve it and so does your team.
Why is it important to seek out and value diverse perspectives?
Tracee Walls, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, FedEx Freight
Diversity is the heartbeat of the world in which we live and work.
From childhood, we learn to offer our perspectives and seek others’ opinions on fashion, food, music, history, literature, and many other facets of life. Seeking out and offering different perspectives is common to human existence. These perspectives help us to grow as people and expand our horizons beyond our natural individual limits.
We live in a world filled with amazing cultures that contribute to our unique society. These cultures, perspectives and differences are all links in a chain that spark innovation and diversity. As a result, innovative ideas drive actions that lead to success and satisfaction – both personally and professionally.
We work in an environment in which the term “diversity and inclusion” has become a buzzword for many companies and brands. Many see the value of hiring diverse talent to build high- performing teams and achieve business goals. However, it is important to remember that diversity is about more than ethnicity. It is developing an appreciation for our workmates’, neighbors’, and acquaintances’ backgrounds and welcoming new perspectives that may push us outside of our comfort zones. It is empowering employees to build on their experiences and challenge the status quo. Accepting diverse perspectives creates a culture that fuels creativity, drives performance, and makes work fun. To achieve success and maintain a competitive edge, it is imperative we recognize, embrace, and intentionally seek perspectives that reflect the rich, diverse world in which we live and work.