AIB Featured Business Leader – Anne Mulcahy

AIB Featured Business Leader – Anne Mulcahy


Born in New York in 1952, the career of business leader Anne Mulcahy shows us the opportunities that can arise from being loyal to one company throughout your career. With a background in English and Journalism from Marymount College of Fordham University, she began her career at Xerox Corporation in 1976 as a field sales representative. From there and after many years of service, Mulcahy went onwards and upwards to serve as the Vice President of Human Resources between 1992 and 1995. She then moved on to become the Corporate Senior Vice President in 1998, followed by being appointed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2001.

At the time when Mulcahy was appointed CEO, Xerox was in a terrible state. With many executives urging her to declare bankruptcy, it was her commitment to not letting down the 10,000 staff that kept her motivated towards turning the company around. As MIT Sloan describes, she kept the company focused on customers and employees and lead “Xerox away from the brink of collapse to become one of the world’s most profitable technology and service enterprises”. When asked to comment on that turnaround, Mulcahy was quoted to say “If you are a big company, the only way to deliver progress quickly is to get people aligned around a common set of objectives”.

Anne Mulcahy also teaches us that your customers and employees truly are your biggest assets. She described employees as an organisation’s “competitive advantage”, stating that companies should want to “attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission”.

It is clear that the above approach to leadership was certainly effective for Mulcahy. As one of Wall Street Journal’s 50 women to watch in 2005, Forbes’ 6th Most Powerful Woman In America for 2005 and considered one of America’s best leaders by the U.S. News & World Report in 2008 – her achievements have been recognised on a global scale. Although now formally retired as Chairperson and CEO of Xerox, she still actively serves on the Xerox board and a number of others including Catalyst, Citigroup Inc., Fuji Xerox and Target Corporation.

I think what we can all learn most from Anne Mulcahy is her approach towards treating staff as the most value asset. Time and time again we see leaders make decisions at the cost of their staff, and all too often they pay the price later down the track. I am wondering though, what do you believe makes a good leader? Do you think Anne Mulcahy’s career can teach us anything else about business? Please feel free to share your views and comment below.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to complete this article: MIT Sloan and Brainy Quote.    

Image credit: Career Girl

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