Anne Mulcahy: Leadership, Personality, Traits And Qualities

Anne Marie Mulcahy, nee Dolan, was born on October 21st, 1952, in Rockville Centre, New York.

A businesswoman and leader of excellent capability, Anne Mulcahy took the company’s reins as COO and President in 2000. She propelled the Xerox Corporation out of debt for the first time.

A leader who made history with her turnaround of the Xerox Corporation, Anne M Mulcahy, drove the company to overcome staggering obstacles like an SEC investigation, years of losses, and a stunning $18 billion in debt.

Under her supervision, the Xerox Corporation reached profitability for the first time in many years.

After she resigned from the position of CEO of the Xerox Corporation, Anne traveled all over the globe to serve as chair of the Save the Children Fund from 2009 to 2017. 

Check out the next section to learn more about this transformational leader who saved one of the world’s most considerable Fortune 500 companies with her ‘Leading by Listening’ leadership style.

Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style

Returning a business that’s $18 billion in debt to profitability doesn’t happen overnight and certainly doesn’t take anything less than total and complete devotion.

Good business practices, optimized operations, and a motivated workforce helped, but none of them were the significant changes the Xerox Corporation needed. 

Instead, what got the job done was Anne Mulcahy’s definitive style of leadership that returned the Fortune 500 company to its roots: having a business model based on fulfilling the needs of its customers. 

A self-made businesswoman that used nothing but her personal experience, new ideas, and pure dedication to achieve her goals, there are many things that the entrepreneurs of today could take away from her.

Motivating Employees to Give Their Best

The most noticeable thing about Anne’s leadership style is that during the early days of her reign as CEO, she logged more than 100,000 miles on flights to different locations and branches of the Xerox Corporation to listen to her subordinates. 

While CEOs traveling certainly isn’t all that rare, taking the time to listen to the problems and opinions of her subordinates gave her credibility with them that no leader ever had before. 

Your workforce is always your greatest asset, regardless of your company’s size. Making sure different sections of your enterprise are giving their best should always be your number one priority.

Key Takeaways:

  • Remember that no cog in the machine is too little. Take the time to listen to some of your subordinates to learn about their worst problems.
  • If you want to optimize the efficiency of your workforce, keep up morale by both making your employees feel important and addressing common issues.
  • Lastly, maximum profit requires the best output from even the most minor branches. Apply innovative solutions to reduce costs while raising efficiency in less profitable locations. 

Being Honest About the State of Affairs

Anne attributes a lot of her success to being honest with her subordinates.

Instead of downplaying the crisis the Xerox Corporation was in, Anne told her employees that it would take nothing short of everybody’s best to bring the company out of its debt.

During her meetings which were often described as ‘town-hall-style,’ she was honest with her subordinates about matters and allowed them to either do their part or leave the company.

New entrepreneurs will profit from this advice massively since they need to be honest and up-front with dispirited employees to understand that they need to give their best.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s essential to remember that your employees and subordinates aren’t dumb. Not talking about a crisis doesn’t mean that it isn’t present in everybody’s mind.
  • Rather than downplaying the situation and encouraging people to return to everyday operations, encourage your workers and raise morale to ensure operations proceed at maximum efficiency.
  • Most importantly, don’t leave anybody out, no matter how small they are. Being included makes people feel important, which in and of itself can hugely raise morale.

Keep Your Company’s Long-Term Future in Mind

Mulcahy took several steps to reduce the Xerox Corporation’s $18 billion debt where she could.

Still, something that later came to define how she turned the company around because she never reduced the Research and Development budget.

She believed finding new and innovative services and products for their customers was the only hope for the corporation’s long-term future.

Ultimately, resisting pressure from executives to cut R&D budgets proved to be a good idea, as the Xerox Corporation bounced back with new services to help companies set up document flows.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rather than cutting costs wherever possible, it’s best to consider what budget allocation changes could do to your company’s long-term future.
  • Even if a particular product is popular now, it might very well be called outdated in the future. Investing in research is a good way of keeping up with technological advancements in your field.
  • New entrepreneurs should follow Mulcahy’s example in always keeping R&D Departments well-supplied for developing new products.

Always Keep Up With the Times

In 2001, when Anne was made Chief Executive Officer of the Xerox Corporation, it was drowning in debt and fast losing customers because of old-fashioned products outmatched by newer models and competitive pricing from competitors. 

In a bold move, Anne went on to stop the production of antiquated product lines that weren’t making much money.

Instead, she chose to reinvigorate the company with a new range of technologically relevant products from Xerox’s R&D Department, which she funneled more significant investments into.

A lesson that everybody can take away from this is the importance of keeping up with the times. Technologically relevant products are the only way to remain noticeable in today’s market competition.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rather than maintain a line or category of products that have become outdated, choose to stop production and instead invest the capital somewhere else.
  • If you have extra capital from any source, it’s never a bad idea to invest it towards upgrading the technological specifications of your products.
  • And while it may sound obvious at this point, keep up with the times. Offering outdated, antiquated products is the fast track to losing any chance at profitability.

Be Battle-Ready and Resilient

In an interview with The Franklin Institute, Anne Mulcahy says that one of the things that cemented her leadership style was the advice, ‘Be battle-ready and resilient. She says it’s important to remember that your company is worth fighting for, and this is something all entrepreneurs must be passionate about.

It means that an entrepreneur has to have a thick skin and the willingness to fight for his company the entire way.

There’s no better example of this than Anne Mulcahy herself. Even though she had the option of declaring bankruptcy and taking the easy way out, she never did.

Instead, this transformational leader used her experience in sales, human resources, and leadership to create the most prominent corporate turnaround of the century. If you have a goal for your company, you always have to be ready to fight the entire way for it.

Key Takeaways: 

  • You can’t let yourself get discouraged if your company isn’t showing profitability. Be resilient to dispiriting factors and work on fixing issues wherever possible.
  • If you want to be a leader like Anne Mulcahy, you have to realize the importance of taking on whatever task can help your company increase its profits.
  • Lastly, you need to take away from Anne Mulcahy’s story that you can never give up. What propels entrepreneurs is optimism and hope for their company, and you can never lose either!

What Are The Personality Traits of Anne M. Mulcahy?

At the turn of the century, the biggest corporate turnaround was pulled off by Anne M. Mulcahy, who did it with nothing more than her experience, common sense, and a firm, no-nonsense leadership style.

Anne was taught early on that gender doesn’t have to impact your career or what you want to do. According to her, debates held in her household are how she learned to have her voice.

Mulcahy’s strengths lie in working with a team of subordinates to achieve a common goal, no matter how large.

While a spirited worker herself, as she held most of the Xerox Corporation’s high-ranking Sales and Human Resources positions at some point, it’s no stretch to see that her talents are wasted in a non-leadership role.

After spending eight years as the Xerox Corporation’s CEO, Anne retired. Since then, she has served on the Board of Directors for some of the largest companies worldwide.

She also served as the Chair of Save The Children Fund from 2009 to 2017, traveling around the globe and using the charity’s resources to improve the lives of children.

Whether you’re a new entrepreneur just starting on your business journey or an established name with a company worth a lot, there are always things you learn from Anne Mulcahy’s personality traits.

Consult the list below to know more about the inner workings of this fantastic leader:

She Leads by Listening

Authentic leaders that can bring about effective change on massive levels often have a critical strategy that they focus on for their company. For Anne, this was listening to her customers. 

After Anne became CEO, people defined her leadership style as ‘leading by listening.’ She went through both customers and employees to find out what was wrong with Xerox.

She conducted surveys, took opinions from employees, applied her vision to see what customers lacked at the turn of the century, and used the limited resources of a failing company to capitalize on needs like innovative solutions to document flows in-house.

She Expounds on the Importance of Inspiring Through Example

Even if you discount all that Anne Mulcahy brought to the table for the Xerox Corporation, her leadership through example stands out the most. 

Anne didn’t ask her employees to put in a level of effort that she wasn’t showing.

She even traveled to low-profit and remote locations to find out what issues they faced and how she could raise morale by providing immediate solutions to them.

Mulcahy knew that the need of the hour was mixing her brand and credibility with Xerox’s image of a dying company, and that’s precisely how she propelled thousands of employees worldwide to come together and save Xerox through a combined effort.

She Advises to Keep Relevant With New Technology

Today, CEOs and entrepreneurs responsible for the well-being of a company must see the glaring importance of embracing new technology if they want to remain relevant in the market.

Anne’s desire to bring Xerox up to speed with the times led her to make some bold decisions during the beginning of her reign as CEO, which wasn’t always popular with shareholders. 

She stopped the production of outdated products but refused to reduce the budget for research and development.

As later seen, these were precisely the bold moves the Xerox Corporation needed. Mulcahy revolutionized the company’s product lineup with a range of consultancy services and presented innovative solutions for companies to improve document flow. 

She Prioritizes Adaptability

Early in her reign as CEO, Anne Mulcahy was forced to realize that the Xerox Corporation would have to let go of outdated ideologies and products if it wanted to survive.

One of the first steps Anne took to reduce Xerox’s massive debt of $18 billion was to re-evaluate the company’s assets, where she sold off non-core assets worth more than $2 billion.

This simple prioritization of the Xerox Corporation’s long-term future displays this fantastic leader’s adaptability.

The range of products and services that brought Xerox out of debt was also intelligent, innovative document organization and management strategies, and adapted to the latest technology to compete in a rapidly evolving market.

She Values Her Subordinates

Perhaps the most striking thing about Anne Mulcahy is that to bring Xerox out of debt, she utilized a resource that many leaders forget to prioritize: their workforce.

In several interviews and talks with reporters, since she became CEO of Xerox (and after she stepped down as well), Anne stressed the importance of having the complete support of the Xerox employees, who followed her vision for the company’s future with trust and dedication.

According to Mulcahy herself, a significant factor behind the company’s revival was her reinvigoration of the company’s dispirited workforce. 

Her reorganization of the company’s priorities allowed her to put valuable talent where it was needed and increase the efficiency of the corporation’s operations.

She Dedicates Herself Completely

Whether you read an article about Anne Mulcahy or ask her former co-workers and subordinates at Xerox, it’s commonly said that she always fully dedicated herself to her goals.

Even from her school days, Anne was a spirited worker who stopped at nothing to get the job done. 

In 2000, this firm commitment to whatever she was working on made her the ideal choice for the Xerox Corporation’s president. This Fortune 500 company was rapidly sinking under its weight. 

She Has A Thick Skin

Mulcahy was first considered for CEO almost two years before she was handed the job but was passed over for somebody outside the company.

This would generally be offensive to anybody, as she had already performed several miracles for the dying Xerox Corporation. Still, Mulcahy didn’t let it bother her and instead continued to give Xerox her complete dedication.

Declaring bankruptcy would be the simplest and easiest way out, but Anne never even considered the option.

Instead, her thick skin towards disparaging comments and discouraging factors allowed her to implement change in Xerox globally, ultimately returning it to profitability.

She Encourages Spending Your Time Actively

For Mulcahy, always making good use of her time has remained a priority throughout her business life. 

Being active might sound like a relatively essential part of anybody’s personality.

Still, for Anne, it was one of the significant facts that helped her achieve success in every single one of her business leadership positions. 

Even after Anne retired from the Xerox Corporation, she focused on keeping her business life active.

Anne holds important positions on the Board of Directors for several high-profile companies.

She was Johnson and Johnson’s lead director and Executive in Residence for Harvard University!

She Supports Gender Equality

Anne has maintained in various interviews and conversations that the foundation for her leadership style comes from her childhood.

Her parents were modern intellectuals who raised Anne and her four brothers with intellectual exercises and daily competitive debates.

Anne was taught the value of equality from an early age and was expected to have a career like her brothers. 

A habit of reading up on the facts of a situation, performing extensive research into controversial topics, and preparing an argument is what allowed Mulcahy to establish herself as a ‘frank, no-nonsense leader’ who inspired her employees by facing Xerox’s crisis head-on.

She Cares About Giving Back to the World

Setting aside her business personality for a moment, Anne Mulcahy is also a warm, kindhearted soul who cares about giving back to the world she lives in. 

The best example of this is her time spent leading the Save the Children Fund, a charity that promotes better healthcare and welfare for children around the globe.

Anne served as the Chair for Save the Children from 2009 to 2017 and over almost a decade, flew worldwide to promote the charity’s mission to bring medicines, food, and even education to unprivileged children.

What Characters Made Anne M. Mulcahy’s Xerox Successful?

Since Anne Mulcahy stepped down from being the CEO of Xerox, analysts have spent years trying to figure out the factors that played significant parts in her reinvigoration of Xerox. 

Ultimately, a single thing helped the company get out of debt and back to profitability.

That was Mulcahy herself, whose fresh ideas and experience managing a sales department helped Xerox return to its roots of providing technologically relevant customer solutions. 

As for Mulcahy herself, her success at various leadership positions and investment opportunities has seen her make moderate profits off them. Today, Mulcahy holds a net worth of at least $3 million. 

You might be asking here, what made her so suited to being the woman entrusted with pulling off the world’s most significant corporate turnaround?

The thing that made Anne Mulcahy the best choice for CEO of the failing Xerox Corporation in 2001 are:

  • A background in extensive research allowed her to understand the company’s failures.
  • A leadership style based on promoting communication between all levels of the company.
  • Anne’s unique ability to see things in an objective light allows her to raise immediate funding to reduce Xerox’s debt.
  • Her experience in all Xerox’s Sales Department levels over a career of more than 20 years.
  • And finally, the fact that Anne Mulcahy is a natural-born leader able to inspire the people around her with nothing but bare facts.

Taking A No-Nonsense Approach to Underperforming Employees

In one of the earliest days of Anne’s appointment as CEO, the new leader held an extensive meeting with core Xerox employees.

Addressing both well-performing workers and underperforming, discouraged employees, Mulcahy told them that unless Xerox came together, everybody at the meeting, including her, would soon be out of a job.

Anne Mulcahy’s no-nonsense approach to her employees is not only definitive but a quality new entrepreneurs should try to cultivate.

Having A Strong Foundation for Damage Control

If there’s anything people can take away from Anne Mulcahy’s turnaround of Xerox, it’s a lesson in performing damage control.

Holding back more damage to your company is essential, but you also need a solid foundation to ask your creditors to hold back. 

Under Anne Mulcahy, this foundation came from non-core assets and liquidation issues that allowed her to raise more than $2 billion towards Xerox’s debt of $18 billion. 

As she put it, when your company is in dire straits, you must drastically rearrange your priorities. 

Sectors that are kept up more for tradition than profitability need to be downsized. More capital needs to be invested in Research and Development to guarantee a flow of innovative products and services.

Playing to Your Strengths

When Anne was appointed to be the Chief Executive Officer, the biggest problem she faced was a complete lack of experience in managing the global operations of such a large company.

However, this didn’t stop her in any way. Mulcahy knew that her strengths were inspiring the everyday employee with her honest and truthful speeches.

She did that to the best of her ability, holding extensive meetings with hundreds of employees where she laid bare the facts of Xerox’s crisis. 

To help her make strategic decisions, Anne relied on the assistance of a team assembled from the brightest minds in the Xerox Corporation.

With their ideas and her background in the Sales Department, she turned Xerox around with a range of modern, innovative document management solutions.

Outlining the Importance of Communication 

Anne Mulcahy has often said that her leading role in the company during her early days as CEO was ‘Chief Communication Officer.’ While it was said jokingly, it couldn’t be any more accurate. 

Mulcahy spent months of her first year as CEO traveling to far-flung Xerox Corporation branches to research exactly why the company wasn’t making money.

While the fundamental factors behind the company’s continued years of losses were several in number, Anne says she could only address them because she outlined the importance of communication between employees.

New entrepreneurs can take this as an example and do the same thing in their own companies to maintain the transparency that allows them to get an overview of operations in a single look.

Establishing Clear Goals For the Short-Term

Having clear goals is a priority for any organization that wants to make the most profits from its operations. It’s essential to keep your company’s long-term vision in mind, but what makes Anne Mulcahy so unique is her focus on maintaining immediate, future-proof profitability.

Please don’t confuse this with the mentality of new entrepreneurs, who often prioritize making a quick buck over the long-term security of their operations.

Instead, read the following list to know more about Anne Mulcahy’s short-term operational goals:

  • Liquidating Non-Core Assets: A big step in her plan to stem Xerox’s debt, Anne Mulcahy chose to liquidate and sell off non-core Xerox Corporation assets.
  • Paying Back Xerox’s Debt: With funding raised from liquidating non-core assets, Anne immediately paid back more than $2 billion of Xerox’s $18 billion debt.
  • Reducing Costs Wherever Possible: Optimizing operations would mean a massive change in Xerox’s business model. Following several executive decisions, Anne cut operational costs by 50%.
  • Lastly, Keeping the Corporation’s Long-Term Future in Mind: Most of Anne Mulcahy’s decisions were indeed made to keep the company alive for the short term. It’s also just as accurate that she never forgot the company’s long-term health, as she never cut a single dollar from the corporation’s R&D Department.

Anne Mulcahy will forever be an exemplary leader in the business world, as she rose to hold the reins of one of the world’s most enormous Fortune 500 companies from a simple sales position.

Even with virtually no experience in that management level, she pulled off the most prominent corporate miracle of the era by bringing it out of debt and propelling it into popularity again!

Key Takeaways

  • Anne M. Mulcahy is known for her down-to-earth personality and her ability to connect with employees at all levels of the organization.
  • She is a strategic thinker and is credited with turning around Xerox Corporation during her tenure as CEO.
  • Anne M. Mulcahy is also known for her strong focus on customer satisfaction and has been recognized for her efforts to improve the customer experience at Xerox.
  • She is a collaborative leader who believes in building strong teams and empowering employees to take ownership of their work.
  • Anne M. Mulcahy is committed to social responsibility and has implemented several initiatives to reduce Xerox’s environmental impact.
  • She believes in leading by example and has often credited her own success to the mentorship and guidance of others.
  • Anne M. Mulcahy is a lifelong learner who believes in continuous self-improvement and professional development.


Who is Anne Mulcahy?

Anne Mulcahy is the former CEO of Xerox Corporation, an American multinational document management corporation.

What are some leadership qualities that Anne Mulcahy is known for?

Anne Mulcahy is known for her down-to-earth personality, strategic thinking, strong focus on customer satisfaction, collaborative leadership style, commitment to social responsibility, and belief in continuous self-improvement.

What was Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style?

Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style was collaborative and focused on building strong teams.

She believed in empowering employees to take ownership of their work and was committed to creating a positive work environment.

What is the most significant achievement of Anne Mulcahy’s leadership?

Anne Mulcahy is credited with turning around Xerox Corporation during her tenure as CEO.

She implemented several initiatives to improve the company’s financial performance and customer experience, including a focus on innovation and a commitment to social responsibility.

What can leaders learn from Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style?

Leaders can learn several lessons from Anne Mulcahy’s leadership style, including the importance of building strong teams, empowering employees, focusing on customer satisfaction, and committing to social responsibility.

They can also learn from her approach to strategic thinking and continuous self-improvement.

How did Anne Mulcahy impact Xerox’s corporate culture?

Anne Mulcahy is credited with creating a positive corporate culture at Xerox, focused on collaboration, empowerment, and continuous improvement.

She was known for her down-to-earth personality and ability to connect with employees at all organizational levels, which helped foster a sense of teamwork and shared purpose.

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