Ursula M. Burns is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Xerox. She has held this position for the last five years. She started out as a summer intern in 1980, and signed on in 1981. From then until she became CEO she has led several business teams and positions within Xerox, all along growing within the company. According to Fortune, she is the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. In addition to the Xerox board, she is a board director of the American Express Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation. Burns also provides leadership counsel to community, educational and non-profit organizations including FIRST – (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, and President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export Council (“Xerox: Ursula Burns, CEO”, 2014).
Leadership and Management
Holding a management title does not necessarily equate to holding leadership skills. Leadership is defined in many ways, and depending on who you ask can simply be “coordinating the work of others”. However that is taking a very limited view on leadership. Leadership is a combination of rationale, inspiration, science, and art. It is said, “Leaders are thought to do the right thing, while managers do things right” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2009). Not all leaders are managers, look at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is argumentatively the most important Civil Rights leader, however many would not look to him as a manager. According to Forbes, Ursula has made Xerox a profitable and viable company, this past year, Burns helped Xerox generate adjusted earnings per share of $1.09, up from $1.02 in 2012, and post $21.4 billion in full-year revenue (Forbes, 2014). Her skills as a manager aided in building Xerox to the power-house they are today.
Burns is responsible for the largest acquisition in Xerox history, and has allowed them to invest in business services, which is a $600 billion industry. Making these decisions requires hard decisions, including outsourcing, closing offices that are not performing well, and adopting a work from home culture. Because of this Burns has found herself on the 2014 Worst CEO list put together by 24/7 Wall Street and Glassdoor. Burns received a positive review from fewer that the 140,000 employees Xerox gained in the business services acquisition. Only 30% approved of her performance (Brown, 2014). Also something that does not help Burns gain leadership approval is the fact that she was paid on average $13 million dollars for 2010 – 2012, while over 500 people were laid off. While Burns has made moves in hopes of ensuring the stability of Xerox there are some that are calling for her to be fired. Burns’ recent letter to shareholders showed just how badly the transaction had gone.
Over the course of 2010 to 2013, revenue, net income and operating margins are flat to down. In particular, revenue fell 1% to $21.4 billion in 2013. In the fourth quarter, revenue dropped 3% to $5.7 billion. Net income was down 1% to $1.2 billion last year. In the fourth quarter, the drop was 4% to $311 million (McIntyre, 2014). When measuring success of a leader, there are many ways to do that and depending on which way is chosen could render different results. Using unit performance indices, Burns appears to be very successful as a leader. Unit performance indices can be used to examine what impact leaders have on the “bottom lines” of their organizations.
Since she has taken over as CEO, Xerox shares have gone up 50% and the S & P is higher by nearly 100% (Brown, 2014). Based on this information and her average salary the board must be happy with how she is performing. However, another way to measure success is by subordinates ratings of effectiveness. Subordinates may be relatively satisfied or dissatisfied, may be motivated or unmotivated, may feel relatively committed or uncommitted to the organization, or may believe their leader is relatively effective or ineffective. Because Burns has found herself on the worst CEO’s list of 2014 it can be said that she has been unsuccessful as a leader (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2009).
Overall it is important to remember that there are many dynamics to measuring leadership and management. Leadership and management can have many different meanings. Burns is a prime example of this. I believe she is an effective manager, because businesses are in the business of making money and her shareholders are happy. She also sits on the board of several inspirational companies like FIRST and Change the Equation, which could have many people looking at her leadership abilities. However, when it comes to Xerox her primary focus is making the shareholders happy, when could indicate she is not being a true leader in a way that motivates, inspires, encourages, or simply speaks to their employees.
Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., &e Curphy, G.J. (2009). Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hills.
Xerox: Ursula Burns, CEO. (2014). Retrieved from
McIntyre, D.A. (2014). Time for Xerox Board to Fire CEO Burns. Retrieved from http://247wallst.com/investing/2014/03/20/time-for-xerox-board-to-fire-ceo-burns/
Brown, A. (2014). Xerox’s Ursula Burns Named One of Worst CEO’s in Corporate America. Retrieved from http://madamenoire.com/418058/xeroxs-ursula-burns-named-one-worst-ceos-corporate-america/
Forbes: #22 Ursula Burns. (2014). Retrieved from
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