Indra Nooyi: Five lessons I’ve learned as PepsiCo CEO

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Indra Nooyi: Five lessons I’ve learned as PepsiCo CEO
Indra Nooyi stepped down from her role as PepsiCo CEO yesterday, ending 12 years in the role and 24 years as a PepsiCo executive. Here, she outlines five lessons she’s learned from her tenure.

As PepsiCo CEO, Nooyi has overseen PepsiCo’s top brands such as Frito-Lay, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker, Gatorade and Tropicana. Nooyi was named as Fortune’s second most powerful woman in business last year, coming after chairman and CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra.

Nooyi says she has been ‘blessed’ to lead PepsiCo, saying it has ‘truly been the honor of my lifetime’.

“In the weeks since my departure was announced, I’ve heard from so many of you in so many different parts of the world,”​ she wrote in a public letter to associates on LinkedIn. “And while I haven’t had time to respond to all your messages, I’ve read each and every one, some with tears in my eyes. There are no words to describe how much they mean to me.”

Here are five lessons she has learned as PepsiCo CEO.

1) Have a clear vision

“Whether you work in operations, sales, R&D, or any of our functions, always have a clear, compelling vision for what you want to accomplish. As it is written in the Book of Proverbs, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ And I’ve found that to be true for all of us, no matter our role in the company.” 

2) Focus on the short-term and the long-term

“Yes, you need to hit your short-term targets, but always try to do so in a way that’s sustainable over the long haul, a way that balances the company’s level — and duration — of returns, a way that generates a profit while also making a difference, always advancing the values of Performance with Purpose.”

3) Bring people with you

“No matter how smart your strategy, success or failure usually comes down to one thing: the team. In everything you do, find teammates who can help execute your vision and empower them to succeed.” 

4) Be good listeners

“When someone gives you feedback, assume positive intent. Assume they’re genuinely trying to help. Think their words over, and be willing to challenge your assumptions. I promise, it will make you better associates and better people.”

'Listen to podcasts, search Google — however you do it, make your ongoing education a priority'

5) Be lifelong students

“Our world is changing rapidly all around us, and if you want to continue to thrive in the years ahead, you’ll need to continually educate yourself. Visit our Lifelong Learning Library in Purchase, take a course at PepsiCo University, listen to podcasts or search Google—however you do it, make your ongoing education a priority.” 

The last word

Indra Nooyi reflects that 12 years is a long time to hold the position of CEO, and says that – ‘although I have a lot of fuel still left in my tank’ – she wanted to do something different and spend more time with her family.

Here’s her closing takeaway:

Think hard about time. We have so little of it on this Earth. Make the most of your days, and make space for the loved ones who matter most.

"I’ve been blessed with an amazing career, but if I’m being honest, there have been moments I wish I’d spent more time with my children and family. So, I encourage you: be mindful of your choices on the road ahead.”

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