Global leadership lessons from PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi

By Glen White
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has stood at the helm of the business for seven years and during her tenure has introduced pivotal changes, which have truly sha...

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has stood at the helm of the business for seven years and during her tenure has introduced pivotal changes, which have truly shaped the image and direction of the international drinks brand. Early on in her role of chief executive, Nooyi introduced the mantra ‘Performance with Purpose’, which would become central to PepsiCo’s journey. But this is not the only pearl of wisdom Nooyi has offered to the business and the industry as a whole. She is an enthusiastic, headstrong and well-admired leader and Manufacturing Global uncovers five lessons all manufacturing CEOs can learn from her global leadership style in the 21st century.

  1. Balance the short-term and long-term. Leaders today often fall into the trap of focusing on short-term quarterly results, yielding decisions that are counterproductive for the longer-term health of the organization. According to Nooyi, effective leaders must strike a balance. Of course it goes without saying that they need to produce results in the short term, however, their decisions must consider longer-term goals as well.
  2. Develop a deep understanding of public/private partnerships. Nooyi points out that many private sector leaders treat the public sector (NGOs and governments) as the enemy - and visa versa.  “Stiff arming them is simply not going to work,” she once said. Instead she advocates “walking a mile in their shoes,” and believes that NGO leaders do their jobs as a “labor of love.” Treating them with respect and understanding, as opposed to distain and condescension can go a long way.
  3. Think global, act local. It may sound like a tired cliché, by Nooyi argues this is sound advice that can yield innovative, out-of-the box solutions.
  4. Keep an open mind to adapt to changes. Nooyi is a huge advocate of Socratic learning - the art of asking probing questions to facilitate dialog and exploration. All-too-often, leaders close their minds to opposition, cutting off much needed debate. To lead in an ever-changing world, Nooyi says, leaders must adapt, stay nimble and be willing to listen to those around them.
  5. Lead with your head and your heart. Leaders must develop deep emotional intelligence, and bring “their whole selves to work every day,” says Nooyi. She believes wholeheartedly in treating employees as unique human beings and believes this approach strengthens the business. Nooyi once famously wrote letters to the parents of her entire top executive team, telling them how proud they should be about the work of their offspring. This unconventional act created an outpouring of emotion, and more deeply connected her executive team to the company mission - tapping into their underlying passions and sense of purpose.

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