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Ursula Burns is the CEO of Xerox Corp.
Ursula Burns is the CEO of Xerox Corp.

Morning manager

Avoiding a succession horse race Add to ...

When CEO succession is discussed, the gold standard often cited was the three-person contest to replace Jack Welch at GE (won by Jeffrey Immelt, with the two losers immediately decamping for CEO roles elsewhere). But in Harvard Business Review, former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy offers a revealing portrait of how Ursula Burns was chosen to succeed her, in a far less corrosive succession.

Ms. Mulcahy groomed the woman who was to be her successor, giving her lots of visibility before the Xerox board and addressing her weaknesses (such as not shielding her emotions with a poker face). Ms. Mulcahy levelled with the other possible contenders on their chances, stressing what contribution they could make if they didn't become CEO. "I don't believe in having people face off against each other for the CEO job in a classic horse race," she notes. "I worked hard to avoid a contest that would be dysfunctional to the company."

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