Comparative Analysis between Two Leaders: Ursula Burns and Carlos Slim Essay Sample

Comparative Analysis between Two Leaders: Ursula Burns and Carlos Slim


The leadership approach taken by different people has an influence on the performance of an organization. Leadership is a process within the society, which forms a foundation of aptitude, knowledge and values of both the leader and the followers (Gallos, 2008). It entails the creation of change that is always altering the status quo. The change is usually towards a desired future for both the leader and the followers. The mutual purpose acts as a motivator, and maintains the relationship between the two parties. Leadership is also an activity that requires numerous skills. Successful leaders understand their organization, the people they interact with, processes, and duties (Gallos, 2008). Moreover, leadership involves being self-aware, open, visionary, trustworthy, and able to handle different situations. In organizations, both the leaders and the subordinates influence one another. It is also the duty of the leader to ensure that the organization achieves its vision and mission, and stays ahead of competition (Northouse, 2013).

A change in the leadership of an organization affects its performance. When a new leader maintains the style of their predecessor or makes gradual changes, the performance may be maintained. However, if there are abrupt changes in the organization, the performance may also change drastically. In most cases, individuals resist changes (Northouse, 2013). Therefore, when it is introduced in the organization, the responsibility of the leader is to understand the probable repercussions of their actions prior to making changes. In order to understand more about individual leaders’ contribution to the performance of an organization, the current paper will make comparative analysis between two leaders. The first leader is Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox Corporation, and the second leader is Carlos Slim, the CEO of Telmex, America Movil and Grupo Carso. The analysis will concentrate on the individuals’ leadership, motivation and decision-making.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns is the CEO of Xerox Corporation and she has held that position since 2009. After her appointment, she became the first African American lady to lead a Fortune 500 company, as well as the first woman to be preceded by a woman CEO in a Fortune 500 company (Executive Circles, 2012). The company is a world leader in the sector of business process and document management. She is a mechanical engineer and joined Xerox as an intern in 1981, and she has never left the company (Executive Circles, 2012). Prior to her appointment as the CEO, Ursula Burns worked in product development and planning for several years. She has also been a leader of different teams in the organization. She became the senior vice president in 2000, and became president in 2007. Later, in 2010, she became the Chairman of the corporation (Executive Circles, 2012).


Ursula Burns is a realist and believes in authenticity of individuals at all times. She believes in the importance of wholesomeness and integrity. Additionally, she is also an innovative leader. She listens to the employees, and understands that she cannot do everything on her own (Executive Circles, 2012). Moreover, Burns is a democratic leader, who believes in transforming and empowering the team to ensure that they understand what greatness is all about before letting them go. Democratic leadership is an open collegiate style of leadership. The leader allows the followers to make contributions in the issues relating to the organization. It is a style that is useful in a work environment that changes rapidly (Gosling, Sutherland, Jones, & Dijkstra, 2012). In addition, it is beneficial to the organization as the involvement of the employees act as a motivator for their actions. It means that the leader facilitates the conversations within the organization and encouraging the employees and team members to contribute their ideas, and synthesize all the available information to get the best solutions (Kippenberger, 2002). Xerox operates in a dynamic industry, and it has to keep updating its operations in order to remain relevant and competitive. Therefore, the CEO engages all the people in different departments and has them contribute ideas so as to remain an industry leader. Through democratic leadership, the employees get an opportunity to learn from one another; hence, building their capacity and getting transformed. Therefore, it is needful to note that Ursula Burns is a democratic leader.


She is a leader who believes that motivation is an essential factor in the improvement of the employees’ performance. Ursula Burns also has her motivation emanating intrinsically. Intrinsic motivation is the behavior of an individual in which they get their drive through internal rewards. Therefore, rather than acting so as to get external rewards or avoid punishment, an intrinsically motivated individual acts to get internal satisfaction (Deci & Ryan, 2014). It occurs when an individual acts without necessarily expecting any external rewards. Intrinsic motivation also occurs when an individual is facing an interesting, challenging or rewarding action (Deci & Ryan, 2014). Since the time when she was young, Burns has had intrinsic motivation. She pursued a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering, which is a field dominated by men. Although Ursula Burns understood the hardships that she would face, she believed in attaining her goals as she had personal drive. It is the same drive that keeps her as a leader in a Fortune 500 company. The challenges that she faces as a CEO enable her to develop creative ideas to handle them. Solving such situations is also an intrinsic motivator. However, she also receives intrinsic motivation from the need to remain the company successful and competitive in the industry. When Ursula Burnsleads her company into profits every year, she gets internal motivation.

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Decision-making at Xerox is an important aspect of the organizational culture. Decision-making is the process of developing and analyzing alternatives and making a choice (Jeffs, 2008). Ursula Burns engages in strategic decision making. It involves making a choice from alternatives that impact key factors, which influence the success of the strategy of an organization. It entails being tactical in making decisions in an organization. Such decisions involve the entire work environment of an organization. The decisions that are required to be made by a CEO are mainly highly profile and impact on different aspects of an organization. Burns ensures that she has engaged all the relevant parties before making a decision. She engages the board and the departmental heads while making decisions.

Carlos Slim

Carlos Slim is a Mexican entrepreneur, who has been classified among the richest individuals globally. He has invested in numerous fields and is the CEO of the most of his companies. He graduated as a Civil Engineer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He is the CEO of Telmex, a telecommunication company that operates in USA and Mexico. Carlos Slim is also the founder of Grupo Carso, which is a global multinational corporation. It operates in different industries including commercial construction, industrial and telecommunication through different affiliate companies. He has been named the richest person in the world in various occasions by the Fortune and Forbes magazines.


Carlos Slim is a highly practical leader and focuses on having each of his companies have its structure and operations (Birrell, 2012). Consequently, he has to change his style depending on the industry where a company operates. As the CEO of a holding company, Carlos Slim makes most of the decisions on his own, after consulting the leaders of these companies. As he is also the founder and owner of these companies, the operations have to go according to his opinions. He has absolute power over the teams and workers. However, Carlos Slim accords the leaders of the companies under his holding company autonomy to operate. Moreover, he holds the final decision on any strategic decisions that need to be made. His style of leadership can be categorized as a combination of laissez-faire and autocracy. The fact that he allows the managers and leaders of his companies to make their decisions and operations gives them the autonomy to function. However, he can make drastic changes in the organizational leadership and operations without making consultations as he is the owner. Therefore, there are some aspects of autocracy.

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Laissez-faire is a leadership style where the employees are given the liberty to operate on their own. It is an effective approach when the leader monitors the operations (Gosling, Sutherland, Jones, & Dijkstra, 2012). Autocratic leadership is seen as an extreme form of leadership when the leader possesses all the power over the employees (Gosling, Sutherland, Jones, & Dijkstra, 2012). The staff members have little say in the decisions made. However, in the case of Carlos Slim, it is only evident in situations where he needs to make high-level decisions.


The motivating factor of the CEO is success and achievement of goals as opposed to profits. He also believes that employees perform exemplarily when they are motivated (Birrell, 2012). His personal motivation emanates intrinsically. It arises inside an individual. When growing up, Carlos acquired information relating to business and financial issues from his father. He developed an internal push to become successful in business. In an interview, Slim said that material value does not act as his motivator. He stated that his parents’ house is larger, spacious and more valuable than his. Also, he stated that it is important for an individual to find motivation as it enables them deal with different issues. He added that external motivations, such as rewards may not always be available, which is why people need to have intrinsic motivation (Jimenez & Mars, 2008). Carlos Slim also acknowledges the importance of extrinsic motivation in business. He states that a leader should understand what motivates employees and focus on it so as to get the intended results. He stated that extrinsic motivating factors, such as rewards and punishments should be enforced if it proves to be the approach that will lead to the attainment of organizational goals.

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Carlos Slim is a CEO who takes most of the decisions on his own. He believes that it maintains flexibility and rapidity. His style of decision making can be categorized in diverse means. It is independent and strategic. Independent decision-making entails a situation where the leader makes a choice on an issue without the influence of other individuals. As the founder and owner of the companies, Slim can make some decisions independently without the influence of his employees. For instance, on issues relating to investments, the CEO can make decisions after making consultations with his advisors. On the other hand, he is known to be very strategic when making investments and decisions. He makes calculated moves, which have led to his position as one of the richest people in the world. His business empire has grown due to investments in different areas that he perceived to be of high potential. In 1997, Carlos Slim bought 3% of the shares at Apple Inc. for $17 per share. A few days later, the iMac was introduced. Consequently, within twelve months, the share price of the Apple Inc. rose to $100 dollars per share (Bloomberg Businessweek, 2000). It is seen as a strategic move made by the CEO.


Leadership style varies from one leader to another. There are different circumstances that lead to the diverse styles of leadership. Ursula Burns is an African American woman who incorporates democracy in her leadership, and believes that integrity and wholesomeness are essential. She also supports innovation, and in line with Xerox’s corporate culture, she lets the employees working under her make the relevant decisions and innovations to support the mission of the organization. She is intrinsically motivated into becoming successful. She has led the organization and it is still listed in the Fortune 500 companies. She uses her challenges as ability to solve them as a motivator. Burns engages in strategic decision making within Xerox. She does so by tapping the expertise of different individuals, which essential for the organization. On the other hand, Carlos Slim is one of the richest people in the world, and is the CEO of his companies. Therefore, he can take a diverse approach in leadership as he is at the top. He applies the laissez-faire and autocratic leadership styles depending on the state of affairs. He is also motivated from within, and it is one of the reasons he has become successful. He believes that making decisions on his own enables flexibility and rapidity. However, he also applies strategic decision making to ensure that the moves that he makes are calculated and will result in success.

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