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What Do People Do When They Are Leading? Case Study


Provide the Background of the CEO Above

Ursula Burns is the chief executive officer and the madam chairperson of Xerox Company. Born in 1958 and brought up by a single mother in New York City, she has been able to scale the heights of management to become one of the few women chief executive officers to lead a Fortune 500 company. She is the first African American woman to head such a company. Burns attended cathedral high school in New York City and then proceeded to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU for her degree in mechanical engineering where she graduated with a degree in 1980.

She later enrolled at the Columbia University for her master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Burns joined Xerox as an intern in 1980. By the year 2000, she had risen to become senior vice president of the company. In 2009, she was made the chief executive officer. In 2010, she was made the chairperson of the company. Burns is married with one daughter and a son.

The CEO’s Leadership Style and Philosophy, and how the CEO’s Leadership Style aligns with the Culture

Ursula Burns can be described as a manager with many different leadership qualities that have enabled her manage Xerox Company to where it is now. Her leadership style can be described on one hand as visionary while on the other hand it can be transformational (Stan, 2010, p. 502). Her visionary leadership style can be seen in her planning for the future of the company to move from the traditional photocopier and printer maker to a more service-oriented company.

Xerox has been the market leader in production of photocopy and printing equipment for a very long time. It was in Burns’ vision to see where the company would be in the coming years. According to her analysis, Xerox had reached its pinnacle of branding and had thus achieved all that any form of branding would achieve. Thus, its gains were becoming saturated. In the next 20 or 30 years, the company would not be there if it only relied on its core business of making copying and printing equipment. She therefore thought of transforming the company into one that would survive the changes of time by coming up with a product that could sustain the company over a long period (Stan, 2010, p. 503).

The company’s philosophy was to stay on top of its business niche and/or remain the leader in the printing and photocopying industry. This goal was being achieved through innovation as a way of simplifying labor in the workplaces. Burns’ style of leadership as a visionary and transformational leader enabled her fuse her innovative ideas about the future of Xerox by acquiring Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) as a way of consolidating its new position in the market by entering the business process and IT outsourcing.

The CEO’s Personal and Organizational Values

Ursula Burns as the chief executive officer of Xerox has many personal and organizational values that she upholds and/or practices. Burns believes in great leadership as a way of steering a business into a success. Great leadership provides other workers in an organization with values to look up to thus guiding all people who are below the chief executive officer (Schemerhom, 2012, p. 24).

Burns believes in financial strengths for the organization because this strategy will enable the organization plan and finance its projects without any financial hiccups. She also believes in ethical business practices through which business can buy the trust of its clientele. At the same time, she believes in evolving business strategies, sound governance, and making decisions that will add value to the organization. The strategies are a way of creating value in organizations.

How the Values of the CEO are Likely to Influence Ethical Behavior within the Organization

In all organizations, the chief executive officers are always the image of the organization. The kind of picture they create is what is perceived to be the organizational picture. According to Shriberg and Shriberg (2011), senior leaders within the organization create systems and cultures that define the organizations they run (p. 21). All members of staff below the chief executive officer will always look up for guidance from their seniors.

Therefore, they will always ape what the senior management does as the norm of running affairs within the organization. Subordinates in organizations take a cue from the way the top management manages affairs thus replicating the same in their responsibilities to the company. Shriberg and Shriberg (2011) argue,As a moral person, the executive models personal traits such as integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness, traits that have long been known to characterize effective leadership” (p. 22). Values within the organizations lead to standards, which always have a domino effect on the operations of the organization.

An unethical act from the top will trickle down to the lower cadre due to the domino effect it has because the organization will end up performing the act at all levels for cleaning tracks thus leading to the behavior being owned by the organization (Shriberg, 2011, p. 23). In most instances, the chief executive officers will be the preceding person in setting standards. Thus, whenever they stray, the whole organization would also drift. Therefore, the values of the chief executive officers are likely to influence the ethical behavior of the organization because they will either uphold ethics or compromise them. Whenever a senior manager sets high ethical standards, the lower cadre would strive to uphold them and vice versa.

Determine the CEO’s Three (3) Greatest Strengths and Three (3) Greatest Weaknesses

As the chief executive officer, Ursula Burns can be attributed with various strengths. For instance, she is knowledgeable in her field of operation. Burns leads a company that depends on her field of study for its operations. Thus, she has the academic background that would enable her understand the intricate details of operation as well as production thus making her comfortable in her position. She has a great vision to add to her academic background.

With it, she is able to plan for the company’s future at great lengths without guessing so much (Stan, 2010, p. 503). She also has determination as one of her strong points. Determination is a major factor for a person when chasing a vision because good visions are usually lost in most cases along the way and that only determination can keep the fire of a good vision burning until it is achieved (Stan, 2010, p. 504).

Although she is viewed to be successful, Ursula Burns has also received criticism that paints her as not so perfect as previously thought. Burns has been criticized for her inability to steer the company steadily through harsh economic times. For the last two years, the share values have gone down by 40% leading to dipping of profits. Burns’ plans have been criticized as expensive and over ambitious. The acquisition of ACS was viewed as exorbitant by investors who felt it was an over ambitious venture. The third criticism about burns as a chief executive officer is that her main project of shuffling the company from a photocopier-making company into a business process and IT outsourcing company seems to be failing thus making it a lost venture.

The Quality that I Believe Contributes Most to this Leader’s Success

The quality that has contributed to Burns’ success is her ability to work in a team. Before her elevation to the highest office, Burns had been a leader of different departments whose input contributed a lot in Xerox’s success. Therefore, her ability to work with others has enabled her fuse her focus with other people’s efforts to achieve great deals as a team (Luque, 2012, p. 630). This ability is evident when she was working as the vice president to the then chief executive officer Ann Mulcahy. This opportunity enabled her inherit Mulcahy at the helm because she proved then that she could carry on the company’s legacy to great heights. Therefore, Burns can be described as a good team member as well as a team leader.

How Communication and Collaboration and Power and Politics Influence Group (i.e. the organization’s) Dynamics

Communication as a component of the group is a factor that keeps the group informed about what it is supposed to know. With communication, all members of the group are aware of their duties to the group. Therefore, there is minimum conflict. Collaboration enables group members to move in concert. All the necessary energy is directed towards a common purpose thus making it easy to achieve (Srinvasan, 2013, p. 153). On the other hand, power and politics are a great influence to the groups’ existence because they determine the direction the group takes. Politics will determine the leadership of the group while power will determine how much influence the leadership will have on the group (Srinvasan, 2013, p. 153). A powerful leader will always push his or her agenda relative to a weak leader.

Reference List

Luque, D. (2012). Unrequited Profit: How Stakeholder and Economic Values Relate to Subordinates Perceptions of Leadership and Firm Performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 53(4), 626-654.

Schemerhom, R. (2012). Organizational Behavior. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Shriberg, A., & Shriberg, D. (2011). Practicing Leadership Principals and Applications. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Srinvasan, S. (2013). Wielding the Organ of Power: Dimensions of Political Leadership. XIMB Journal of Management, 10(1), 149-160.

Stan, D. (2010). The Role of Regulatory Fit in Visionary Leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(4), 499-518.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "What Do People Do When They Are Leading?" January 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-do-people-do-when-they-are-leading/.

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