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Xerox CEO: The Hardest Part of Leading a Company Transition

August 18, 2017, 3:27 PM UTC

Jeff Jacobson has been CEO of Xerox for only eight months and it is the first time he’s been in charge of a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company. He’s learning quickly about what it takes to be an effective leader.

Speaking with Fortune, he talked about the importance of leadership and the lessons he’s learned in his new job as he tries to reinvent the legendary copier company.

In these early days as CEO, he’s been on the road meeting with Xerox’s 35,000 employees in 160 countries. It’s a grueling schedule, but he talks about the importance of connecting with everyone to get every person lined up to turn around the company. “People relate to people at the end of the day,” he says.

That’s also the reason he writes a personal blog that is emailed every week to every person working at the company. He wrote about his wife on Mother’s Day and he shared life lessons he learned from his father on Father’s Day. “If you’re going to follow your leader, you have to know who they are,” says Jacobson, adding, “and you have to trust them. And there has to be an authenticity. And they have to know you really mean it.”

But as Xerox’s new boss, he also relies on tough love to motivate his people. “You have to be relentless. You have to know when to figuratively kick and when to figuratively hug,” he says. “And you just have to keep it going. I keep telling them it’s a boulder we’re turning. This is part of a transformation. This is part of a turnaround. And when we have that boulder going, you don’t want to slow it down. You don’t want to roll backwards. You want to keep going forward.”