Leaders With Lacqua: Business Leader Indra Nooyi
Indra Nooyi is one of the world's leading business executives. She reached the pinnacle of U.S. enterprise and CEO of American food and drinks giant PepsiCo for twelve years. I had a long and loyal long set of people that followed me because they just thought they became better leaders better executives better people after they've worked with me. She's been named head of the most powerful people on the planet and she brings a unique insight into the challenges of achieving equality in Wall Street. Nobody like me a colored woman immigrant from an emerging market. So there was always this feeling that I was so different from the others and I had to find a place at the table. She now sits on the boards of companies including Amazon and Philips and has written a book reflecting on her remarkable career. My life is full. I had my fair share of predicts. But
that's OK. But over time it went from Oh my God what the hell is in there doing to cut and dress all fresh and to. I was so ahead of everybody else in the performance. So I feel like I've been vindicated internally. Thank you so much for speaking to us on leaders with like what. You've had such an incredible career. What did you
learn about being a woman in power. Well it was lonely in the early days. I didn't look at myself as a woman in power. I just looked at myself as an alien being that showed up in corporate America because there was nobody like me a colored woman immigrant from an emerging market. So there was always this feeling that I was so different from the others and I had to earn a place at the table though that was the early days. But as the years progressed and we got into the twenty twenties. Oh yeah. Things started to get better. 2018 2019. Things started to get better. I would say it wasn't easy. It was
lonely. It was tough and it was hard work. But did you ever doubt yourself. So when you say you know I was like an alien just just trying to keep up almost. Did you ever think actually this is too hard this is unjust this is unfair. I didn't think that. I said oh my God how am I going to hold a job. What do I need to do to prove that I deserve a seat at this table. How do I contribute. How do I make myself be heard. How do I deliver something that's made better than what everybody else asks so that people look at me and go. She's the real thing. And so I was actually driven to perform. I was driven to prove myself and I was just driven to learn and expand my own
thinking. So I took it I took upon it as a challenge and an adventure to do it in this environment. Have you met many men that actually also felt they needed to prove that they had a seat at the table. You know maybe. But I think men because the Brotherhood is so strong. They don't have to talk about their fears and their concerns because if they do they talk amongst themselves. And I never hear about it. In my case I felt it. I lived it. And so I can talk about it in the first person. Most of the guys I know you know sort of say yeah the job is tough. It's a new job. But
I'll I'll make it happen while they chat with their guy friends and somehow the Brotherhood gives them a hand. I mean the way the Brotherhood give me a hand to contain I should tell you that all the mentors who followed me and supported me and coached me and developed me were all white men. And they were phenomenal in terms of how much they invested. Michael Barr you been. What I hear you know almost day in day out by women in powerful positions is that you have to be the best. If you're going to make it you have to be better than any man. How do we address your DAX true equality.
I in those days I'd say you remember I started my corporate career here in 1980 so I tip between 1980 and about 2007 8 10. That period I would say that women have to be read better than men to be taken seriously. I think as more women have come into the workforce and you're beginning to really thrive and show their true words I think that now people are looking at women as a serious force in corporate America who can actually drive the agenda forward. But in the early days we were so new that people
kept what I thought people were wondering why we were there at the table at all. Maybe they were not. But this is just my own perception because you know I've I would read body language. I would do whatever. This is just me maybe imagining things. I just got to haven't accepted the as yet. When do you feel accepted. Is there a day when you saw it. Actually I can be myself and people listen. There were times
when you know when the turning point happened there in a meeting the CEO would look at everybody hear everybody's point of. And then say let's stop and see what India has to say. She usually has a way of capturing what needs to be done and telling us you know what the next step should be. So then I realized maybe I have something to bring to the table demystifying the complex
giving people a clear path forward. And I think there's many mentors I had along the way. Francine actually helped me build my confidence by making statements like this. Let's go with Indra has to say. Indra you've been unusually quiet. Don't you want to say something. Because you usually have great things to say. So by giving me these tailwinds they helped me build my confidence. And over time I realized that you know I deserve a seat at the table and maybe I have something to function here. Well you definitely did. So what do you think are your leadership qualities and actually do. Do we ask different leadership qualities now than we did 20 years ago are actually two different answers. I think that I succeeded
over the years. One because I based my entire leadership on competence. I spent a lot of time making sure the business topic I was working on I had mastery of enough mastery to understand what we needed to do how we needed to adapt what it was. Solutions mean adopted inside the company. I had the ability to zoom out and look at issues in the Broadway and then zoom in and implement them. So this is something that I was known for and people always say. I had enormous strategic acuity because I could connect seemingly unconnected dots and make a shape out of it. So these are one set of skills that people would say look if you need this sort of a skill go to Indra on the personal side. I love people. So I would reach out to everybody from senior executives down to the frontline. I showed tremendous empathy. I
can't about people and people love to work for me. And they would say what Indra does is raise the bar for us but she helps us get there. She mentors she develops she coaches. And I had a long loyal long set of people that followed me because they just thought they became better leaders better executives better people after they'd worked with me for a few years.
Do you think into that self-doubt. Is is more of a feminine trait than you see in men. I think women talk about it. Men may not talk about it. They may have it. But not all women I know do have self-doubt. And I think it's because people don't give them that boost of confidence. They need explicit boost of confidence. As I told in my case some of my bosses gave me that explicit boost of confidence. And I think we ought to find people who would tell a
woman look I was a great job. You did on that presentation was outstanding. I think we have to get more people either you know promoters of women or people in the sisterhood forgive women. That confidence explicit confidence which is too lacking. It's happening now. Little by little. But it's like coming up in January and the challenges of raising children while leading one of the world's most valuable companies. Then you could write it is known say mom please come home. Or if you come home I love you more. Please please please. You just sit there and cry. In general is one of the world's most admired business leaders. But her punishing work life meant sacrifices at home. We discuss
empowering employees and the challenges she faced as a woman and a mother at the top of What'd You Miss?. Do we need even more nurturing post pandemic. Because that is the way that we talk with employees going to change. I think talent becomes the single biggest differentiator of a successful entity versus an unsuccessful. So you've got to do
everything possible to hire train retain put your arms around talent. I mean you really got to focus on your talent. In the past it's always been give money you know show them that they have upward mobility and can make even more money. And that's the only reason people come to us. I think post pandemic we're seeing more and more people say I have to worry about me as a person. I have to worry about my family. I want of my idea of what my well-being my mental health. So we've got to start encompassing people as holistic humans as opposed to a tool of the trade which means that we have to engage with that head heart and hands not just at enhanced. The heart has to be engaged. So we have to be shown more empathy. Show show that we
care that the citizens of the community the members of the family and all of those have to come into consideration as we help an executive or an employee be an employee and be a plus to the community of the family. The stakes are higher. How many leaders do you think are thinking like that right now. Is there anyone in the business world today that you admire. Well you know I don't see too many CEOs but the people I've read about you know people like Mark Benioff we're doing this all the time. I even look at people at Amazon was bought. I sit on. They do care about employee well-being. And a lot of people are working
flexible. They say hey that's what it takes to keep the employee happy in a that talent is in short supply. Let's do that. So you know I was talking to somebody of some stripe the other day the company that are you know still private. But you know she's looking out in New York for companies in California. But the fact of the matter is he said as long as you can do the job as long as he can interact with the executives now and then we care about you because you have a kid in school your family is in New York. Find him. Stay there. So I think people are now waking up and saying if I lose this employee because I don't give him a hug and flexibility I'm not going to be able to hire somebody that he used to replace them of this caliber. So let me stop it. The talent I need not combined the talent and location at the same time which is what we did in the past. I enjoyed your book.
IFC actually really really loved it. And it's interesting you talk about you know juggling work life balance juggling kids even being sent I think by your mother to get a pint of milk because he had nothing at home and he'd just been nominated chief executive. Well I mean what are you like as a mother. I give you my perspective. I'll give you my kids perspective next. I think I'm a very very loving very involved mother. And if my kids need me I would drop everything and go to them. If they're hurt just a little bit I'm the most doting mother and I will just smother my kids with love and affection. They know that. On the other hand as with all kids whose mothers loved they wished mom was there for time during their childhood years
even though had I've been there done that I said God she's covering the office because I've seen a lot of kids who had stay at home mothers who said I wish my mother would work like you. So I think they'd like it both ways. What would be their on demand for us today. They would say mom has high standards but mom is loving loving loving. In fact she's a bit smothering. And only recently have I learned to let go a little bit in the past. My kids don't text me three times. Dad go nuts. Now I'm saying
you know there must be all right. I mean on stuff you know hover over them too much. So I'm trying to let go the last two or three years. And kids are liking it. But I would say on balance I'm a good mom. Have you ever not felt mom guilt at all. Not mom guilt that all the behind the society. Now you know when you could write she does not say Mom please come home. If you come home I love you more. Please please please. You just sit there and cry. Or if you come home from a trip at 10:00 tonight and you know there is no smartphones or you haven't been able to text and talk to your daughter. And she says mom had something so important to tell you. I read it at the door to 10:00 and then I went to bed and I only came home and in heaven because
the flight was delayed. You know those times you feel like your heart is being cut open and wrenched from your soul. You sit there and have a good cry that am I doing the right thing. But then you know you've got to think ahead and say if you are not doing this would you feel a difference out of a rage or regret. The answer is yes. I think all trade offs have gone to sadness and regrets and rage. Associate. And you think one part misses the other. So the challenge is to try to do both. It's a tremendous cost for you personally but if you can somehow pull it off live with the consequences and your husband has been IBEX. I think by reading your book your biggest champion in this he's been around a lot. I mean
what happens if you don't have a supportive partner. That is a challenge. And this is why I wrote this book because not everybody has a support department. Not everybody has multigenerational families helping them out. And you know there's a book written by sociologist Eric Klinenberg for policies for the people that profoundly impacted me because he talks about community centers you know little towns with barber shops libraries civic centers community connections are built.
And this is where families have to go to get support. And I honestly believe we have to rebuild trust in communities. We all have to come together to help each other out because the nature of the family has changed. Even if it didn't change because people did it by choice. Tom says some families are messy families breakup all kinds of reasons. And very often the
woman who's left with the children and the entire responsibility of going out and getting a job and a paycheck and taking care of the children. That's an enormous burden. And I think it's very important that as communities we come together and start to provide support to each other to say hey you know how can I help you in your time of need. So you can help me in my time roughly and everybody get together and somehow make it happen again. Families have to be at the center. Families and successful relief communities come together. So we have to anchor families and communities and talk about them differently including how we build communities how we build inner cities. All of this has to be rethought. But this goes really to the fabric of society.
And it's difficult. You know cultures are different regions are different. Families are different. So how do you make sure that people feel anchored and supported in such a way. You know loneliness is a common trait. Doesn't matter which culture or rich country or whatever. Loneliness is a common trait. Need for human connection is a common need across the world. As long as it's a human being. Everybody wants human connection. We are building a society of young people who interact just with technology and think that's the world. So somehow the other we have to make it as aspirational for the young people to go out and interact with people older people you know people you know multigenerational people so that their life is richer for interacting in a human way with those people as opposed to avatars of those people on screen. And making the screen so much
more aspirational that you think that dealing with 3D figures and putting on your are VR glasses is the entire one. I worry about a world that is you know all technology driven and loses the human side of it. So I hope as we think about the advancement of technology we worry a lot about what we're going to do by loneliness human connections taking care of multi generations and creating a better society and a better population. But interesting whose job is it to worry about it. So if you look at the metaverse which is what you're describing do I as a mother as a parent limits the screen time for my kids or is it regulation from the government. Is there. Is it private companies like how do you deal with that. You know when we start talking about regulation everybody's hunches get up. I'm not talking about regulation because then you don't know where this
stops. And I think if you recreate family connections if you recreate community connections you have to make it aspirational for young people to leave the. Tom Keene get out. It's not mandating screen time because if you're not dead they can easily break those mandates inspecting them in the middle of the game. They don't want to stop. So it's very hard to enforce it. And
very hard to enforce it for teenage kids. I think the best thing you can do is create community activities that people have to interact and create a real desire on the part of the young people to want to go out and interact with those people. When my daughter several years ago my older daughter I asked her what would you like say a bloodstain. She looked at me and she said can you stop the Internet for one week. So what do you mean. She said Yeah. Just shut down the global internet for one week. So we never have to interact with technology. We just interact with people.
I think young people would like to interact with people to. And so it's the challenge we all have just as all the tech companies advanced technology so much to make us want to interact with technology so much. I think we have to figure out what's going to make other activities aspirational so people want to get out of the technology and go into human connections.
Coming up the best and worst advice industry has ever received. Plus her proudest achievement from her time in charge of PepsiCo. I had my fair share of critics but that's OK. But over time it went from oh my God what the hell is in there doing to cut in dress old fashioned too. Indra was so ahead of everybody else on performance above. So I feel like I've been vindicated. Indra Nooyi led American food and drinks giant PepsiCo for 12 years overseeing a drive for healthier products and greater sustainability. He discussed her proudest achievement as well as the best and worst advice she's ever received. What are you most proud of as your time as chief executive performance of Compass. I think I was way ahead of my time but I think that was the right direction for PepsiCo. It was the right direction for industry. And you know each one should interpret
purpose as it's relevant to that business. I think with ESG metrics now it's almost validating performance with purpose for too many metrics. I would argue that it's validating performance and purpose and I feel proud about it. I when I first put it in I mean I had my fair share of critics but that's OK. But over time it went from oh my God what the hell is in doing to God in dress. So and to enjoy the so ahead of everybody else and performance. So I feel like I've been vindicated and I think that's what I feel was gratified by I time in principle over how many job offers and get a day job offers. I get your question. Your role is advisory board. Boards of facts. You know just again maybe I wouldn't say per day but on a week I may get five or 10.
No I my my dance card is full at this point. And and you wouldn't want another big job at a big company to make a difference. Once again I'm making a difference in everything I'm doing right now. I read between Amazon Phillips you know M.I.T. and Memorial Sloan Kettering teaching up at West Point. As I said in my dance card is full and I feel like I'm contributing enormously now looking on the candy equation. So I don't have a single minute available to do anything else. What's
the best piece of advice you've ever received and what's the worst piece of advice you've ever received. I think the best which I got from my grandfather as a kid and I've carried it through is you've got to remain a lifelong student. You've got to engage in lifelong learning. That's the day you stop doing that. You're going to atrophy. Sometimes I'd say no. Once I finished college I'm done with money. But I realized that if I don't keep learning somewhere I feel like the world is just running ahead of me and I don't know what world I'm in. So for everybody I'd say lifelong learning is critically important. The worst piece of advice also gave my grandfather. He'd always say Satan has worked for idle hands. It's actually him. I think a biblical saying. But he would quote that to me all the time. And so I
felt the urge to always be doing something read something you know engage in some activity go clean go organized. I find it impossible to just sit and do nothing. Sometimes I say God I'm exhausted. I want to sit and meditate or do something. But when I stop for meditation I go that's too much time downtime for the brain. But I get back to doing something. So this wise man gave me two pieces of advice which might have been timely then but one stood me in good stead for decades and the other one has wired me so differently. I wish I could unwind myself. That's for the ingenuity. Thanks so much for being with us today. Francine thank you for having me. It was a pleasure chatting with.