Video of the Week: Learned on the Firing Line

Leadership Lessons Learned on the Firing Line
Anne M. Mulcahy
November 9, 2006
Running Time: 55:02

Anne M. Mulcahy was named CEO of Xerox in 2001, and chairman in 2002. She previously served as president and chief operating officer, and president of Xerox’s General Markets Operations. Mulcahy began at Xerox as a field sales representative in 1976, and progressed into senior management positions, including vice president for human resources. She subsequently served as vice president and staff officer for Customer Operations. Mulcahy earned a B.A. in English/Journalism from Marymount College in 1974. She is a member of the boards of directors for Citigroup Inc. and Target Corporation, among others.

Mulcahy has drawn a number of lessons from her harrowing turnaround tale. Leaders must “listen with a bias toward responding,” even during prosperous times, so they can learn about deep-seated problems and jump on them proactively. This means seeking out critics for “the straight scoop.” Simplify the corporate structure and communicate “a few clear priorities” – in person, if possible. She notes that previous Xerox managers had relied on a “classic, Powerpoint slide solution to organizational effectiveness” but it “was a nightmare when you went around the world and couldn’t find anybody who had clear responsibility for anything.” Make sure you’ve got the right people for the right jobs — diversify and make sure to hire “people who are different and smarter than you are, with skills you don’t have.” And if the organization is struggling or failing, articulate a vision of the future that employees and customers can buy into. Finally, lead with humility. Great leaders burn with ambition for their companies, not for themselves.

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