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Effective Ethical Leadership in the 21st-Century Essay


The 20th and 21st centuries have produced various influential business leaders who range from corporate giants to music industry moguls. Their business headship is anticipated to establish pragmatic ideas for their corporations and/or individuals who they guide. Some of the renowned bosses include Jack Welch who was the CEO of General Electric and Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines among others. Such leaders have adopted unique headship styles that fit their businesses. However, this discussion is based on Anne Mulcahy, the Chief Executive Officer of Xerox who headed the company from 2000 to 2009 (Xerox Corporation, 2015).

Her overall leadership style, company’s organizational structure, and culture will be discussed about the business approach to human capital management and employee development. The paper will also present the effectiveness of her leadership qualities in enhancing workplace productivity and the shared vision of the organization. Besides, her chosen leadership qualities, success in motivating and empowering her employees, and customer loyalty will be determined.

Overall Leadership Style

Anne Mulcahy is considered one of the most influential bosses in terms of her innovative thinking, customer focus, an unquenchable desire to serve the less fortunate citizenry (Morris, 2003). She took over Xerox in 2000 when the company was faced with bankruptcy threat (Patnaik, 2014).

Considering her form of leadership, she is not autocratic. She embraces the democratic behavioral leadership theory as evidenced in her numerous consultative advances from junior employees and customers. For example, after being uplifted to lead the company as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), she acknowledges the fact that she did not know financial matters. Thus, she requested advice and tutorials from the treasurer’s office who taught her about fine financial points. Additionally, Mulcahy practiced the contingency form of leadership (George, 2010).

The then state of Xerox dictated the actions she took in her quest to revive it. After shareholders withdrew, it was credible to appreciate the fact that the company was broke. Hence, practical approaches had to be adopted. Also, to offset the continued loss-making, she had to lay off more than 28, 000 employees. Having worked at Xerox for 25 years before clinching the top seat, Mulcahy had developed the trait form of leadership by learning from the attributes of her predecessor’s achievements and failures (George, 2010). ). On the other hand, due to the power and influence that she has amassed, she uses such tactics to have things done.

Xerox’s Organizational Structure and Culture

The organizational structure of Xerox has a chairperson and chief executive officer as the overall heads who are assisted by the executive assistant in the second top position. From the CEO, departmental leaderships such as Xerox Technology, Corporate strategy and Asia Operations, Office of the General Counsel, Secretary, and Human Resource follow. At the same level are departments such as Xerox Services, Corporate Operations, Chief Financial Officer, and Separation Program Management Office.

These positions report directly to the CEO. The company has a laid-back office setting. Apart from the business level strategy, Xerox embraces the corporate level strategy that offers opportunities for companies, which deal with information technology. It also avails many diverse initiatives for special groups (Gompers & Lerner, 2000).

Xerox’s approach to Human Capital Management and Employee Development

Xerox’s human capital management factors in leadership ethics, employee morals, and organizational culture (Rofcanin & Mehtap, 2010). The company is a center for employee education, which aims at growing an individual for an organization’s overall growth. This strategy results in the development of the company and its affiliates. For example, Mulcahy was nurtured for 25 years before she was promoted to become the CEO. She ended up saving the company from collapsing.

The environment that is created around employees contributes to personnel progress. Employees are involved in hands-on practice and theory, which inculcate in their experience and knowledge. As one of the main managerial roles, managers nurture employees to think and act independently. This process makes them develop the ability to adapt to new challenges and changes while at the same time becoming innovative (Saleem, Tufail, Atta, & Asghar, 2015). The top management reveres autonomous competence, which enables employees to strengthen their capabilities that are geared towards career development and growth.

Anne Mulcahy’s Leadership Approach

Mulcahy’s leadership approach enhances workplace productivity through its emphasis on transformational leadership. She is guided by values, meaning, and advanced determination. She portrays a high sense of integrity by setting herself as the best example through encouraging, inspiring, supporting, effecting robust communication, and setting realizable goals. To enhance workplace productivity, the company formulates problem-solving capabilities through the identification of a solution.

This goal is achieved through training young employees and graduates to equip them with the basic abilities based on customer interest. She has strengthened the administration capabilities of her workforce for it to steer the company into viable reform. Managers are prompted to shift their mindset to make them confront their new management duties with decisiveness. Also, the company focuses on strengthening human resource abilities on a global scale. This process involves on-going quality improvement and implementation of effective training of overseas employees in corporate branches. The training targets the global customer base.

Mulcahy’s Ethical Conduct and Effective Communication

Anne Mulcahy demonstrates effective leadership attributes. Through her effectiveness, competency, and record of accomplishment, she was promoted from the sales department to becoming the CEO. She leads with honesty. When she had been promoted, she honestly informed the management that she has little knowledge about financial matters. She proactively took action to have an officer from the finance office teach her basics in monetary matters. She leads with loyalty.

Her loyalty was tested when shareholders withdrew at a time when she wanted to have the leadership team’s assurance of its commitment to serving the company. When the company continued to make losses, she did not quit. She leads with integrity and discipline. She is dedicated to seeing the company back on its feet. While on her visits, she encounters varied pieces of advice, which she takes into account rationally. Besides, she has higher employee ethics (Pardey, 2007).

She instills in her employees the virtue of loyalty and commitment when she asks the 100 leadership team parties to confirm their commitment. As a focused leader, she decided to positively take the problem that her company was facing and proactively worked towards achieving short and long-term goals. She decided to go out and try to win Xerox’s customers by listening to their complaints. She affirms the importance of upholding customers by saying, “I will soar everywhere to maintain any Xerox client.”

Furthermore, Mulcahy is an effective communicator. Despite all the negative comments that people said about the company, she always replied positively and reassuringly. For example, when one of the customers told her to change the culture of Xerox, she replied that she was the culture. Similarly, her comment that she would soar everywhere to save Xerox’s clients is a reassuring statement that created confidence in people around her. Her determination is also seen when she asks for a commitment from the 100-leadership team.

Mulcahy’s Success in Motivating and Empowering Employees and Gaining Customer Loyalty

For employees to serve customers satisfactorily as one of Anne Mulcahy’s guiding principles at Xerox, she realized that they (employees) were to be interested and motivated in their work (Saleem et al., 2015). Mulcahy had worked in the company in various capacities. Hence, she was experienced in what was lacking in motivational and inspirational elements to her employees. She acknowledged Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that range from physiological demands, safety requirements, social needs, self-respect, and self-actualization.

She realized that effective employee leadership entailed managing individuals in various ways and not deliberately causing intimidation, but rather focusing on developing a working relationship and respecting workers’ perspectives. Therefore, she encouraged employees to take risks and/or get tasks done. She also discouraged them from getting afraid of the risks. She motivated her employees by displaying her intention and priorities. She developed productivity and leadership style correlation, which made the employees feel important, appreciated, and part of the organization’s success.

Employee Motivation and Company Transformation Practices

According to Xerox (2015), although what is termed as the best practice may not universally applicable in all contexts, principles of leadership and employee motivation are central in achieving this goal. As applied by Mulcahy, leadership elements such as trait, contingency, behavioral, and power and influence cannot be overlooked. These leadership qualities can only be effective when employees who are supposed to be the custodial ambassadors should be motivated. Motivational elements should follow the aforementioned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The strategy will assist the management to attain employee inspiration (Pardey, 2007).

Importantly, transformational leadership appears to unify the above element of inspiration to create universal leadership. The leadership style that comprises integrity, role modeling, support, effective communication, inspiration, and encouragement will instill values and meaning in employees.

Ethical Dilemmas created by Globalization

The contemporary phenomena of nations, cultures, and financial institutions internationally have been interconnected through globalization. The interdependence that is generated due to this interconnection is creating ethical dilemmas, for instance, in terms of job security. The first-world countries are having their jobs jeopardized. Mind workers such as engineers are having high job demand and pay whereas manual laborers are losing jobs due to the outsourcing of discounted employment from third world countries.

Brain drain is another ethical dilemma. People who are highly qualified and talented in the third world nations are leaving their original workforce to seek greener pastures in developed countries. These leaves the developing nations deprived of a skilled workforce. Thirdly, issues such as the emerging markets and financial interdependency are causing monetary crises among nations. For example, the US subprime mortgage collapse almost caused depression worldwide.


The discussion has focused on Xerox’s former CEO Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style. From the discussion, it is evident that she embraced the transformational style of leadership, which involved guiding, having a higher purpose, and upholding values, integrity, loyalty, and meaning. She factored in the importance of inclusivity, employee motivation and inspiration, education, and empowerment. This strategy assisted in achieving the company’s goals and customer satisfaction.

The company’s organizational structure and culture fostered the development of a good relationship with employees who in turn translated it into customer contentment. Employees are motivated and taken as the main contributory elements to Xerox’s success. Therefore, despite the leadership style that a business leader adopts, the business is bound to succeed where effective leadership ethical guidelines are followed.

Reference List

George, B. (2010). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gompers, P., & Lerner, J. (2000). The determinants of corporate venture capital success: Organizational structure, incentives, and complementarities. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Morris, B. (2003). The accidental CEO. Fortune, 147(13), 58-67.

Pardey, D. (2007). Understanding Culture and Ethics in Organizations. Oxford: Routledge.

Patnaik, R. (2014). Crisis-Driven Strategy: A Case of Xerox Corporation. IUP Journal of Business Strategy, 11(1), 42-53.

Rofcanin, Y., & Mehtap, Ö. (2010). Implications of Leader-Member Exchange Relationship (LMX) Theory and Transformational Leadership Dimensions on Subordinate. International Journal of Global Business, 3(1), 83-83.

Saleem, M., Tufail, M. W., Atta, A., & Asghar, S. (2015). Innovative Workplace Behavior, Motivation Level, and Perceived Stress among Healthcare Employees. Pakistan Journal of Commerce & Social Sciences, 9(2), 438-446.

Xerox Corporation. (2015). Company Profile: Xerox Corporation. Web.

Xerox. (2015). Buck Consultants at Xerox Offers Employers an Affordable HR Portal, Providing Employees a Fully Personalized Experience. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Effective Ethical Leadership in the 21st-Century." August 31, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/effective-ethical-leadership-in-the-21st-century/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Effective Ethical Leadership in the 21st-Century'. 31 August.

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