Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox

Ursula Burns was born on the lower east side of Manhattan, New York on September 20, 1958. She was born of Panamanian immigrants, raised by her mother, where she lived in public housing. Although her mother was very poor, Burns attended Cathedral High School and received her bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1980 and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.

Her internship at Xerox provided her with the graduate degree from Columbia. Ursula became a permanent employee in 1981 and worked in various roles in product development and planning throughout her twenties. While in a meeting with Wayland Hicks, a senior executive, Burns was offered her a position as an executive assistant for nine years in different departments and learned the business.

During this time she married Lloyd Bean and was named vice president for global manufacturing in 1999. (Iqbal, 2013) In 2000, Burns was named a senior vice president and began working closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy, in what both women have described as a true partnership. Nine years later, in July 2009, she was named CEO, succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairwoman until May 2010. Analyze the CEO’s Leadership Style and Philosophy, and How the CEO’s Leadership Style Aligns With the Culture.

Burns was hired as an intern in the engineering department as an African American women in 1980 when diversification was not the norm. Xerox is a company that is all about diversity and was like that before many other companies. Training is an important factor to Xerox since xerography requires technical training. Then there is training about how to work in a team. So what does that have to do with the culture of Xerox. Burns is considered to be a straight shooter with words and perceptions at crucial times.

The time that she partnered with her predecessor, Anne Mulchany gave her the experience and wisdom as when to speak up and/or speak out. "They don't want to hire you and change you into something else... or even change you to be like the other engineers. Burns believes that her attributes were the calling card that Xerox wanted. She was intelligent, urban, black, and a woman. Burns believes that Xerox wanted her approach to things and a certain way of speaking and that's what they wanted. The culture of Xerox is about hard work that becomes a success story.

It is not about money; it's about accomplishing a lot. "It's leaving behind --- in the workplace, the communities you work in and the clients that you work for — more than you take away." Xerox engages a client by initially understanding the problems that present and how to solven that says 'Xerox was a great experience." Burns says that the Xerox approach is what clicked with her and brought her happiness about the job she does. Burns is fearless and expects all employees to be the same. (Doherty, P., 2012) Examine the CEO’s Personal and Organizational Values.

Ursula Burns feels that her success gives her the opportunity to give advice to young women who are asking her for words of wisdom on achieving their career goals. These are her quotes in response to several questions. In her own words; She tells them:

1. Find a good (older) husband. Burns met her husband, Lloyd Bean, while working at Xerox. A scientist and researcher, he was also 20 years her senior. “He had already gone through this ‘growing up’ stuff,” she says. The age difference proved advantageous when Burns’s job later required her to travel frequently and leave their two young children at home. Her husband retired, allowing Burns to focus on advancing her career. “So the secret,” she jokes, “is to marry someone 20 years older.”

2. Redefine work-life balance. It’s a “fool’s journey” to try to achieve perfect balance between one’s professional and personal lives, Burns says. Instead, she suggests women get comfortable with the idea of taking “your entire life to find balance. You should have balance, on average, over time – not in a day or in a month.”

3. Be selfish sometimes. Burns advises “checking out” occasionally to put personal needs ahead of career and family. “Think about your health, physically and mentally,” she says. A failure to do so, she warns, can put everything else at risk.

4. Don’t take guilt trips. Mothers often feel pressure to be present for their children all the time, but such expectations are neither realistic nor necessary, Burns says. “Kids are pretty resilient,” she says. “You don’t have to be at every volleyball game. We can’t guilt ourselves.” Her own mother missed many of her extracurricular activities, she adds, “and I’m fine.”

5. Don’t take life too seriously. “Ninety percent of this stuff is just not that serious,” she says. “We get crazy about it.” Burns says she often thinks back to her mother’s advice to stay grounded. “Continually go back to the basic stuff,” she says. “Be prudent. Enjoy it.” Burns contributes to the other organizations by serving ed on numerous professional and community boards, including Exxon Mobil Corporation, American Express, Boston Scientific, FIRST, National Association of Manufacturers, University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, the Rochester Business Alliance, and the RUMP Group. She will serve as Vice Chairwoman of the Executive Committee of The Business Council in 2013 and 2014.

Evaluate How the Values of the CEO Are Likely To Influence Ethical Behavior Within the Organization.

Ursula Burns states that as her career progressed, she learned to "appreciate -- and really value -- the other attributes that define a company's success beyond the P&L: great leadership, long-term financial strength, ethical business practices, evolving business strategies, sound governance, powerful brands, values-based decision-making.” Dreams do come true, but not without the help of others, a good education, a strong work ethic and the courage to lean in. That’s why I spend so much time with organizations that help minorities and women gain the education and self-respect they need to take risks, to dream big and, hopefully, to someday pay it forward.

References

Iqbal, Muneeza (2013)Makers.com Doherty, P. (2012). LEADING THE WAY. Business Strategy Review, 23(1), 10-16. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8616.2012.00810.x Kwoh, Leslie, (2013) The Wall Street Journal. At Work. Careers

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