July 25, 2012

Female leadership: through the eyes of Indra K. Nooyi

Economy

Female leadership: through the eyes of Indra K. Nooyi - The Alessandro Benetton blog

I would like to thank Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, for sharing her thoughts on what it means to be a leader today. I cannot but agree with her every word.

Adapting to Lead in a Changing World
By Indra K. Nooyi

As Chairman and CEO of one of the world’s largest food and beverage businesses, I am often asked about what it means to be a woman leader. My answer? While being a woman influences my approach to leadership – just as being a parent, an immigrant and a sports fan affects how I view the world – it is not what defines my approach to leadership. But I do believe that being a woman has helped me develop a unique, adaptive approach to leadership that is critical in today’s world of rapid change.

For me, this means leading with open eyes, open ears, an open mind and an open heart.

Leading with open eyes is about anticipating and preparing for emerging trends by constantly scanning the horizon, and being brutally honest about what it will take to succeed. At PepsiCo, we recognized years ago that our future success depends on operating sustainably. Ever since then, we have been guided by Performance with Purpose, our belief that doing good for our business means doing good for people and the planet. It has guided the development of a wider range of delicious, fun and nutritious choices for consumers and driven savings through the efficient use of resources.

To be a truly adaptive leader, you must have open ears, listening to those around you. No single leader has all the answers all of the time. But if you listen to the right people—consumers, colleagues and communities—someone will. Our Gatorade business, for example, uses social media to directly engage with athletes on their performance needs and then uses the information to deepen consumer engagement, adjust marketing plans and influence product innovation.

Leading with an open mind means not only questioning everything your business does, but also having the courage to act on what you see and hear, sometimes in new ways. Today we face complex, global issues that require new kinds of solutions and cross-sector collaboration. At PepsiCo, we seek public-private partnerships with governments and non-profits to accomplish what we might not be able to achieve alone. For example, we engage in a public-private partnership that has led to the development of a sustainable market for heart-healthy sunflower oil in Mexico, creating a source of income for 650 Mexican farmers and their families, and a steady supply of the oil for our local snacks business.

Lastly, being adaptive means leading with an open heart, recognizing that employees want to both make a living and make a life. By valuing our colleagues for their roles as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons, we enable them to bring their whole selves to work, gaining their respect so we may be more successful – together.

In the end, the most adaptive companies create a shared sense of purpose with strong values, and find ways to create sustainable success for all its stakeholders. And in this era where progress is like a bullet train, the world demands it.

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