Understanding Individual Attributes


Individuals are complex and unpredictable, perhaps some more than others. Understanding and explaining the actions of even those we know best can be challenging because beyond the surface of what we see are important attributes of their inner selves. In this chapter, we investigate both surface and deeper attributes of individuals that explain behavior.



The transition at Xerox from Anne Mulcahy to Ursula Burns marked the first time a woman succeeded a woman as CEO of a major U.S. company. In another first, Burns is the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Although her gender and ethnicity attracted headlines, it is her abilities, personality, and values that are the key to her success.

Ursula … has the courage to tell you the truth in ugly times.

Burns, who attended Cathedral High School on Manhattan's Lower East Side, experienced a difficult childhood growing up poor in the “projects.” Her mother did whatever she could to put her three children through private schooling, including running a child care center from her home and taking in ironing to supplement her income. Ursula was the middle child and took to ...

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