Applying Abraham Lincoln’s Prescription for Leadership – Xerox

Key Findings and Recommendations

The crisis Xerox is facing needs a transformational leader who can motivate the employees to enhance performance for the survival of the firm. Anne Mulcahy, on her appointment as the Chief Operating Officer, achieved various short-term wins in this respect. For instance, she has developed a united leadership team by meeting managers and explaining the unique challenges that Xerox is facing. Through such meetings, Mulcahy has been able to let go of individuals who are not committed to helping her meet the objectives she has set out for the entity. Additionally, by engaging managers at an individual level, she has been able to persuade talented individuals to remain with the entity to help her in the rebuilding process. Such was the case for instance with respect to Ursula Burns who notes that she had thought of leaving Xerox after becoming disoriented by leadership changes that had taken place in the past (George & McLean 2005b). Her role now is to keep the team motivated so that it can remain focused on meeting the short-term and long-term objectives she has set for the organization. She can achieve this by enhancing the expectancy, instrumentality and valence for her subordinates.

To enhance expectancy, Mulcahy needs to provide her subordinates with reasonably challenging assignments that will keep them motivated. She needs to make her subordinates responsible for parts of the strategy she has set for recovery while she tackles aspects such as the SEC investigation that may impede the implementation process. Lincoln for instance tasked his generals to pursue Lee’s army even when it retreated (Phillips 1992). In assigning tasks, Mulcahy needs to consider the abilities of her subordinates to avoid a situation where a subordinate feels that the task assigned is too great for him/her. Mulcahy can overcome such a perception by offering suggestions to her subordinates about the course of action then allowing them to implement the actions in their own fashion. For instance, Lincoln offered suggestions to his generals whenever he felt that they were reluctant to carry out attacks that would weaken Lee’s army. To build confidence in her subordinates, Mulcahy needs to encourage them and appreciate the successes that they achieve in meeting the goals she has set. She should also offer support when her subordinates make honest mistakes. Lincoln for instance offered his generals support even when they lost a battle, prevailing upon his advisers who wanted him to sack such generals (Phillips 1992).

To ensure that subordinates appreciate the need to enhance performance, Mulcahy should engage them in delineating what would constitute acceptable or unacceptable performance. She can use such sessions for instance to set timelines that would create a sense of urgency in meeting the goals she has set out for Xerox. One way of engaging the employees would be to use team members to evaluate the performance of each team member. Engaging subordinates in such a process will help them to understand what the entity expects of them. Additionally, Mulcahy needs to demonstrate to the subordinates how their efforts contribute to Xerox’s survival thus helping them to achieve higher satisfaction whenever they expend more effort to meet the goals set. Lincoln exemplified this by constantly informing his troops that they were fighting to protect the freedoms upon which the nation was established (Phillips 1992).

Mulcahy also needs to enhance the link between performance levels and specific outcomes for the employees. She needs to build trust in her subordinates that she will deliver on the promises she makes to them. Additionally, she needs to treat her subordinates in a fair and predictable manner upon their performance and be honest in providing feedback concerning a subordinate’s performance. Lincoln exemplifies this aspect in promoting the troop leaders who performed well in battle. He also reduced the responsibilities for generals who failed to meet his expectations consistently. Through this approach, Lincoln was able to get a general, Ulysses, who was able to lead the troops to defeat Lee’s army. Mulcahy can learn from the strategy to increase the responsibility of subordinates who perform well consistently. Through, such an approach, she will be able to create entrepreneurial leaders throughout the organization thus build its capacity to adapt to change. Further, such an approach will enable her build strong alliances with her subordinates. Subsequently, strong alliances will help her to know the subordinates she can depend upon to carry through with her strategy in her absence.

Mulcahy also needs to enhance the value of the outcome to the employees. This is possible by learning her subordinates’ preferences by interacting with them on a personal basis. By learning what her subordinates value most, Mulcahy will be able to offer attractive rewards to the subordinates thus motivate them to increase their efforts to attain expected performance. Depending on the information she has of the personal preferences of her subordinates, Mulcahy can offer rewards such as occasional paid offs, tokens of recognition and verbal or written appreciation. Lincoln exemplified this by writing letters that recognized the generals for their achievements thus allowing them to own the success. Mulcahy also needs to enhance the congruency between organizational and personal outcomes. She needs to illuminate the value that employees derive by expending their efforts in meeting Xerox’s goal. For instance, she can demonstrate that by achieving Xerox’s goals, the subordinates are helping the organization to develop programs for personal development and a better work-life balance. Lincoln exemplifies this by his addresses to the troops that note that their struggle to defeat Lee’s army helps to protect the freedoms that their descendants would enjoy in future.

Mulcahy also needs to adapt her communication style for internal audiences. For instance, she needs to avoid making statements that may contradict her dedication to lead Xerox out of the crisis it is facing. Although her honesty is admirable, she could alienate employees and investors through statements that discount her resolve to lead Xerox to a profitable future. For instance, declaring to the media that Xerox had unsustainable business model (George & McLean 2005a), Mulcahy created uncertainty that lowered investor confidence. Such a declaration could also demotivate the employees if they perceived the communiqué to indicate that the CEO had no belief in the entity’s capabilities. Employees need reaffirmation that the entity can overcome the challenges to remain committed to meeting the set goals. Through such reaffirmation, the leader is able to build the employees’ confidence thus motivating them to expend more effort towards meeting the entity’s goals. Mulcahy thus needs to learn to temper her “touchy-feely” style when appropriate to ensure that she does not alienate employees and investors. Lincoln for instance avoided public responses to unjust criticism preferring to write letters that he eventually did not send. Through such an approach, Lincoln avoided getting into petty discussions that could take the focus away from preparing for battles with Lee’s army.

In the subsequent sections, the report first reviews the key facts about Mulcahy’s suitability to lead Xerox and the aspects that make her task challenging. Secondly, the report highlights the issues that Mulcahy needs to address to achieve favorable outcomes and actions that she can take to address such issues. go to part 2 here.

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