Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver: Delivering a Culture of We, Not Me

Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver: Delivering a Culture of We, Not Me

by Ron Wallace


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United Parcel Service (UPS) is a household name that customers and investors alike hold in high regard. Who hasn’t been delighted by a right-on-time delivery, one of the 18 million UPS makes every day? Founded over a hundred years ago, UPS has moved steadily up the Fortune 500 while so many other corporations have disappeared. What’s the company’s secret?

Just ask a driver!

Ron Wallace was a UPS delivery driver for six years before he began rising through the ranks, ultimately becoming president of UPS International. In other companies, that might be extraordinary, but at UPS it’s par for the course. UPS has a unique corporate culture. It’s like a family. Package loaders call executives by their first names and vice versa. The company almost always promotes from within. Lifetime employment is common. Most employees own UPS stock. Wallace credits the company’s success—and his own—to its culture of “we, not me.” As he puts it, working at UPS gave him a PhD in teamwork.

Instead of writing a typical business memoir that celebrates the leader as celebrity, Wallace shares vivid stories that focus on the people he worked with, the challenges they overcame, and the simple principles and practices that make up the UPS way. He exhorts his readers to grow their people, not just their business plans. The leadership style described in this book is simple and direct—and it works. The straightforward and easy-to-understand lessons provide a blueprint for an individual or company to build on past successes and adapt to future challenges. This is a must-read for anyone aspiring to become a great leader.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626566880
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 04/02/2016
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 543,827
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ron Wallace is the former president of UPS International. During his tenure, he was responsible for operations in more than 200 countries and territories, with more than 60,000 people under his direction. He also served on the corporate management committee that oversaw the day-to-day operations of UPS and its 435,000 employees. In addition, he has served as chairman or cochairman of thirty-three boards of directors of highly successful companies around the world. Shortly after retiring from UPS, Ron was appointed by the governor of Georgia as chairman of the Governor’s Commission and charged with forming the City of Milton, Georgia. He is also the founder of the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pubs in Atlanta, which in 2015 was named Irish Pub of the Year by the Irish Pubs Global Federation.

Read an Excerpt


This book is about delivering. It’s what UPS does every day of the week around the world.1 Our friendly drivers in their sharp brown uniforms are the front line of our business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that they love their UPS drivers and how much they look forward to receiving the packages the drivers deliver each day. The entire company— from the part- time employees to the chairman of the board— dedicates a tremendous amount of time and effort to support the endgame: the driver delivering the package.

Founded in 1907 and thriving more than ever, UPS is a very large family with a unique business culture. I am certain this distinctive culture is the reason for the company’s remarkable success and is what keeps us in the number one spot for our industry even today.

I am proud to say that I was a UPS driver. Over the years, I worked my way up the ladder and eventually became president of UPS International, where I was responsible for UPS’s operations in more than 220 countries and territories— directing thousands of managers at all levels. At different times, I served as chairperson or cochairperson of 33 boards of directors of highly successful companies across the globe. I was also one of a handful of people on the corporate management committee, responsible for the day- to- day operations of UPS and our more than 435,000 employees.

Leadership Matters

If I’ve learned anything during the long course of my life in business, it’s this: leadership and a values- based culture matter. They are the key components that set great organizations apart from the pack. As the president of UPS International, I worked alongside many types of leaders from around the world, and I learned important lessons in leadership from each of them. The great ones, the less successful ones, and those who failed all taught me something. Whether they were in charge of small companies or international conglomerates, I witnessed firsthand what they did right and what they did wrong. I took to heart what those experiences taught me.

Reading a lot of theory is not why I buy books. I want facts, true stories, and sharp insights on leadership.

To me, the most encouraging moments in life do not involve overly complicated, untested ideas. Rather, they are natural, timeless, and orderly progressions marked by accountability. Leadership is not rocket science. To build a high- performance team, use simple principles within a basic structure that every one can easily understand.

I have certainly made more than my share of mistakes through the years, and I’d like you to be the beneficiary of what I’ve learned from them. I hope that the lessons in this book will keep you from stepping on some of those same land mines and help propel you further and faster toward the attainment of your goals. If you’ve committed to venturing into the realm of leadership, you should know up front that your journey will take you down a winding road of small advances, painful setbacks, and even bigger victories. To build a high- performance team, use simple principles within a basic structure that every one can easily understand. The fact of the matter is that I learned the most important leadership lessons from people within my own company, UPS. As I discovered, a great recipe always means that certain ingredients simply cannot be substituted or left out.

What Brown Did for Me

One of the biggest things Brown did for me (UPS is affectionately known as “Brown,” after the Pullman-brown paint color of the company’s vehicles) was to give me a PhD in teamwork. The values- driven culture at UPS provided me with both a platform and a regimen for personal growth. It consistently stretched and strengthened my development as a leader. I knew that I’d arrived at UPS whenever I’d hear someone say, “You bleed Brown.” Believe me, that’s high praise.

It is the dedicated people who made the company successful, day in and day out, in the trenches, and often under some of the most adverse business and political conditions in the world. These hardworking men and women deserve the credit for the success we achieved.

UPS is a no- nonsense, no- frills company. Our objective today is the same as it was when the company was started: to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible rates. The UPS mentality is to be thrifty and keep an eye on the bottom line. We know it’s the little things that make a big difference— like turning off the lights when we leave a room to reduce energy costs.

The UPS culture of treating one another as family has served us very well over the years. When leaders look at their team members in this light, the importance of using their influence to serve those with whom they work comes into sharp focus. Priorities turn into sincere concern for the well- being of others and foster the desire to motivate every one to bring his or her very best to work each day, helping the organization to reach its full potential.

Unfortunately, many people promoted to leadership positions don’t know where to begin, how to fight through the middle, or how to finish strong. Novices, and even some veterans, often lack an understanding of what it takes to be a leader. Perhaps you fall into this group and firmly believe you are capable of leading others, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it. You begin to ask yourself questions like:

How do I influence others? Why do some leaders seem to soar, while others barely get off the ground? How do I get started and maintain an upward trajectory that will lead to professional and personal growth?

This book has the answers. The leadership style described in Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver is simple, it’s direct, and it works. It’s from the front line and reflects the values those of us in the UPS family hold dear. The straightforward and easy- to understand lessons I present will enable you to get on your feet and then ride out the inevitable storms.

Just as the laws of physics describe the universe around us, there are core principles that give shape to the leadership world. If you adhere to them, they will lead you to the success you desire. And although the core values that guide you should remain true and unchanging— your North Star— there are always new things to be learned.

At the end of this book, you will find a study guide that you and your team can use to dive deeper into the key points presented in each chapter. Together, you will discover ways to get better at “delivering” what you do.

Table of Contents

1. Delivering a Culture
2. Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can’t You’re Probably Right
3. Divine Intervention
4. The Heart of Leadership
5. If You Know All the Answers, You Have Not Been Asked All the Questions
6. The X Factor
7. What’s That Smell?
8. Don’t Punch a Bear in the Nose When Your Head’s in His Mouth
9. Into the Storm
10. Prepare for Places Unexpected
11. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered
A Study Guide for Leaders and Their Teams

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