Ex-PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi: “I don't miss one thing about my corporate career”

MT talks to Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, about her new book, her views on leadership and why she doesn't miss one thing about her corporate career.

by Robert Jeffery

MT: Why is authenticity a topic that crops up so much in your book, and why does it mean so much to you?

IN: Many, many people try to have two personas: a CEO persona and who they are really. I realised that it takes more effort to create two personas for myself and that also I might slip between one and the other and confuse people. So I decided I am just one person. I will bring my emotions and empathy to work. Somehow that stood me in good stead – as long as you didn’t do anything crazy that disrupted the company, people accepted you for who you were.

For example, when I decided to write to the parents of my senior executives, that was just me thinking that everyone congratulated my mother for bringing up such a good daughter, so I owed the parents of my executives a thank you for giving me the gift of their child. When I first wrote the letters, there were people raising their eyebrows, but when they got the letters they were crying.

Don’t dismiss authenticity and empathy – understand the human feelings behind it and you’ll realise it’s much easier to be authentic. Unless you’re a mean person, in which case don’t be authentic – just change yourself. You have no business being nasty as a CEO.

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