Unduplicated Success

Ursula M. Burns makes history as the first African American woman to head Xerox

provider of business process outsourcing and IT services will enable Xerox to broaden geographic territories through its global sales network while increasing revenue flow.

Her prowess has placed her in demand in the boardroom and at the highest levels of government. “One of the many things I admire about Ursula is her clarity of vision,” offers Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, one of the corporations on which Burns serves as a board member. “If you want people to follow, you need to give them a sense of where you are leading them. Ursula knows where she wants to lead and she articulates it exceptionally well. That’s one of the things that make her an inspirational leader.” In December, these attributes led President Obama to tap her for the White House campaign for excellence in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

Reluctant to embrace publicity, Burns is squarely focused on the business at hand. “It’s all about the company,” she insists. “If you make the company great, if people say this is a great place to work, it’s a great place to develop technology, it’s a great place to present value to customers, then you can actually become famous. If you’re trying to become famous, then it’s almost surely going to be a disaster. But if you want to be associated with greatness, it’s about being associated with greatness, not about [you] being great.”

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