Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, Makes the Case for Corporate Purpose

Posted on Categories Conscious Leadership, Culture/Employee Engagement, Purpose

My friend Darcie Durham with Boeing hosted me at the Greater Houston Partnership leadership luncheon. The speaker was Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo and it was moderated by Scott McClelland, President of HEB. I don't hear much about "corporate" PepsiCo and before this talk I didn't know much about Indra. However, what she had to say about leadership and building a sustainably successful company was so in sync with how I view the role of leaders in business today that I felt like we were kindred spirits.

Apparently PepsiCo lives under the mantra “Performance through Purpose.” Purpose is certainly a term being used a lot—in fact it is the foundation of everything we do at Savage—but what she had to say really left an impression on me because I could literally feel how much it meant to her personally and to the company. She is a leader that is really walking the talk. Some takeaways…

The Longview Leader: One of her most poignant points was that many (too many) leaders/CEOs work to make sure that their time at the company is good—that they simply try to prove their own performance until the next CEO shows up. Indra believes that the duty of the CEO is to figure out the right way to run a company for the duration of the company—not just for the duration/tenure of the CEO. She constantly asks, “What kind of company do we want to be?”, “How do we want to be viewed in this world?” and, “How can we absolutely attract and retain the best people?”.

Stakeholder Integration: PepsiCo is actually a B2B company—selling to sellers but pulling through consumer demand—this was important to her message because she emphasized that a) they really have to have a great understanding and respect for the interdependencies of their stakeholder ecosystem and b) they have to listen to multiple “customers” to develop the long term product and service strategy for the company. In that vein, they have three core tenets to their strategy:

  1. Create a product portfolio to keep up with ever-changing consumers
  2. Take care of our footprint so that we can earn the license to operate in your community
  3. Bring best and brightest so that we can deliver every day

Employee Recruiting & Retention: Indra referred to the PepsiCo culture and the critical need to recruit and retain the very best employees. She argued that employees and her culture are CRITICAL to the company’s enduring success. By committing to and delivering on the company’s purpose, she believes that she is giving each employee the opportunity to walk in the door and bring their whole self – which will in turn make it a better place to work and deliver better performance.

Loyalty: She made a point to mention the overall lack of loyalty that exists today—from employees and customers. Keep up with the changing environment with the customer, the consumer and the supply chain is an every day challenge. Loyalty to brands is shrinking. Longevity doesn’t exist anymore. Everything can be disrupted and probably will. Which leads to the next point.

Be a Student: To keep up, every leader and company must always retool and be thinking about what the company needs to look like for the next generation. Even with a masters degree and a long, successful career, Indra has said that she has had to become a student again—she reads everything, considers everything, listens to everyone and tries to understand deeply what is out there and how she can keep the company ahead. Study study study.

My last quote of Indra’s that just proves how much she cares about PepsiCo’s future: “This is more than a job it’s a calling; it’s a cause. If I was wiped off the planet PepsiCo’s ‘performance with purpose’ will survive because it is our DNA and it is what everyone cares about.”

Bethany AndellAs President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose," Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.

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