October 2010 —When Anne Mulcahy became the chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation in 2001, the once mighty company was in desperate straits – losing money and on the verge of bankruptcy. For the next several years, she successfully worked at turning the fortunes of Xerox around, and by 2009, the company was once again strong and vibrant as she retired from the top position.
Mulcahy shared her insights as leader of one of America’s best known corporations as a guest speaker for Trinity University’s Distinguished Lecture Series.
The event, which took place Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Trinity’s Laurie Auditorium, featured a conversation between Trinity president Dennis A. Ahlburg and Mulcahy in which the president asked her a series of questions during the presentation.
Mulcahy offered her opinion on several issues during the informal dialogue, including:
- Gender and leadership - “There is a tendency now to talk about women’s leadership skills that are preferred. Leadership styles that include collaboration and multitasking. But buried beneath the surface is the flip side of the issue – that women are not as strong on decision making or toughness. We need to make sure we are not categorizing women or men in a way that doesn’t do justice to what is good leadership. Good leadership is a blend of great operational and execution skills along with some degree of team playing.”
- Decision making – “I think of how Xerox got into so much trouble and a lot of it was because the institution avoided making tough decisions. Problems do not get better over time, they generally get worse. I was really big on saying, ‘We’re going to make a lot of decisions, we’re going to move quickly, and we are going to make mistakes. But we will try to fix our mistakes quickly and learn from them.’”
- CEOs as celebrities – “I think the days of CEOs viewed as celebrities are over. It’s been a humbling period for leaders and CEOs and I think that’s a good thing. That’s a more appropriate stance to take than celebrity status. You put your institution first. It’s a more fulfilling role.”
Mulcahy also talked about life since retiring from Xerox and her new role as chairman of Save the Children. “It’s inspirational. What strikes me is that we are dealing with solvable problems. We are not waiting for medical breakthroughs.” Since joining Save the Children, Mulcahy has personally visited several countries including Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq to see first hand how the organization helps the people it serves.
The Trinity University Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible by an endowment from Mr. and Mrs. Walter F. Brown of San Antonio.