America's Best Leaders: Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO

In reforming a troubled company, she had the courage to say "no" to Wall Street.

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Anne Mulcahy

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A transformation. But Mulcahy has done a lot more than restore Xerox. She has completely transformed it. "Companies disappear because they can't reinvent themselves," she said recently.

Mulcahy's advice for other companies facing massive problems, particularly during the current financial crisis? "Do not defend yourself against the inevitable." In other words, face reality and get your team aligned with the new vision that will result in reinvention.

To that she adds, "Focus on client service instead of financial engineering." It's too bad that failed financial firms like Lehman, Bear Stearns, AIG, and Wachovia didn't listen to her counsel. Actually, one troubled financial giant is listening: Mulcahy left the board of Fannie Mae four years ago to join the board of Citigroup, where she is offering advice to its new CEO, Vikram Pandit.

Learning her lessons well from the previous debacle, Mulcahy is once again transforming Xerox—the plain paper copier company. Her new vision? She wants to eliminate paper in the office altogether and become the company that manages digital content.

Bill George, author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, is professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and the former chair and CEO of Medtronic.

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