From Madras to Yale, Dancing with Dilemna

Ensur­ing pos­i­tive diver­sity prac­tice is crit­i­cal to attract­ing the best.” 

We look at a 10–15-year devel­op­ment plan for our high-potential peo­ple. This looks at their chil­dren, their schools, their spouse’s job, age­ing par­ents – any­thing that affects where they will be com­fort­able work­ing. That way we can build oppor­tu­ni­ties to develop their careers in tan­dem with their per­sonal lives.” From Diver­si­ty­Inc mag­a­zine

Indra Nooyi is the woman leader num­ber 7, in my series of Women and 12 Lead­er­ship Styles. She rep­re­sents The Facilitator/ Achiever dilemna, with a strong pref­er­ence for the Facil­i­ta­tor.

Because, in terms of rank­ing, she is at num­ber one of the most pow­er­ful cor­po­rate lead­ers in the world.

She has been chief exec­u­tive of Pep­siCo since 2006, but has effec­tively been help­ing to drive its strat­egy since 2001, when she became pres­i­dent and chief finan­cial offi­cer for the group. Born in Chen­nai, Nooyi took an MBA at the Indian Insti­tute of Man­age­ment in Kolkata, and worked for two years for John­son & John­son in Mum­bai, before cross­ing the Atlantic in 1978.” (from Women at the Top –Finan­cial times).

  • Sec­ondly, The facilitator

How­ever, she com­mu­ni­cates with a strong pref­er­ence for the Facilitator’s style of lead­er­ship and strongly advo­cates the Facitator’s val­ues. Let’s look at 3 key val­ues: Team Spirit, Sim­plic­ity and Loy­alty.

  • Indra Nooyi is famous for her Team Spirit. Nooyi attrib­utes her suc­cess to her employ­ees. She says:

Pep­siCo is like my extended fam­ily and I believe that to top the speed of com­pe­ti­tion an entre­pre­neur should attract the best employees. ”

She’s also famous for hav­ing stud­ied video­tapes of the final cham­pi­onship games Michael Jor­dan played for the Chicago Bulls for learn­ing more about teamwork.(from bloomberg busi­ness week)

  • What strikes me is her sim­plic­ity and warmth.  She seems to be very at ease being sim­ply her­self in very dif­fer­ent con­texts. At Pepsi Co, she has long been known for patrolling the office bare­foot, singing in the halls. In col­lege Indra Nooyi was part of an all-girl rock band where she played gui­tar and sang songs. She still does and is involved into arts. Did you know that she was on the board of Lin­coln Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts?

She’s inte­grat­ing both log­i­cal and emo­tional parts of her­self and does it with authen­tic­ity and humour. It’s very easy to con­nect with her and iden­tify with her as a woman. That’s why she’s such an excep­tional, ordi­nary role model for next gen­er­a­tion women!

  • Her sense of Loy­alty towards the USA, where she arrived to study at Yale in 1978.


Although I’m a daugh­ter of India, I’m an Amer­i­can busi­ness­woman. My fam­ily and I are cit­i­zens of this great coun­try. This land we call home is a most lov­ing and ever-giving nation — a Promised Land that we love dearly in return. And it rep­re­sents a true force that, if used for good, can steady the hand — along with global economies and cul­tures.” At Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Busi­ness School’s Grad­u­a­tion Cer­e­mony.

How did she inte­grate both the Indian and the Amer­i­can culture?

Here’s what Indra Nooyi says, about rec­on­cil­ing the demands of her posi­tion with her her­itage that’s based on a woman always putting domes­tic val­ues first, in a Diver­si­ty­Inc interview:

” It’s some­thing my mother used to tell me. She said: “They can take away the CEO from you, but they can’t take the woman away from you, they can’t take your hus­band away from you, they can’t take your chil­dren away from you. So don’t for­get that– don’t for­get how you have to be anchored in your fam­ily.” Hon­estly, I’m not sure how I can be a CEO with­out being a wife, a mother and a daugh­ter. Because that’s who I am at my core.

I love my fam­ily, so I work hard to make sure that part of my life that makes me who I am is always true. I work at it.”

Finally, as always with this model, the added value is to com­pare with the oppo­site style and see how the dynamic ten­sion is managed.

The Dilemna here is between the Facil­i­ta­tor and the Achiever, pro­filed with tough new yorker no non­sense style, Ursula Burns.

Indra Nooyi knows per­fectly well when and how to demon­strate her Achiever style of lead­er­ship. Watch her speak at Davos 2011 on the women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the cor­po­rate world.

Even when she talks about “forc­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion, forc­ing the num­bers”, she does it in an inclu­sive and facil­i­ta­tion way!

” If you call it a quota sys­tem, it sounds awful. Don’t call it a quota system.”

At the same time, Indra Nooyi says, apply the quota system! :

We’re going to force rep­re­sen­ta­tion, we’re going to force the num­bers. You’ve got to start some­where. In every pro­gramme in his­tory it always started with a sort of man­date. It’s ok to have man­date.  The world is 50% women, in fact 50,5 %, why can’t Davos be at least 20% women ? Not a bad goal at all.”

Her secret?

” We’ve got to fig­ure out ways to cre­ate pro­grammes that women feel included in.”

“I Will Write My own Rules as CEO!” This could sound awfully dic­ta­to­r­ial, and in her mouth, it’s like lotus flow­ers! She really com­mu­ni­cates with ease, integrity and grace in her Facilitator’s style.

Your turn!

Who else do you know who could rep­re­sent this lead­er­ship style?

How does this style res­onate with you? What can you learn from it? What would you need to develop, or “stretch” in order to com­mu­ni­cate better?

Some­times, all it requires to change is self-awareness and a baby-step towards improve­ment. It then can have rip­ple effects…

I really believe the approach I’m devel­op­ing here on this blog, with the 12 lead­er­ship styles and the 12 women role mod­els will help increas­ing self-awareness and encour­age diver­sity.




Related posts:

This entry was posted in 12 WOMEN COMMUNICATION STYLES, LEADERSHIP and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to From Madras to Yale, Dancing with Dilemna

  1. Fas­ci­nat­ing post Mar­ion. I learned about the facilitator/achiever dilemma and about Nooryi. I so-o agree about the quo­tas, sounds neg­a­tive but we have to start somewhere.

    I’d be inter­ested to know how Pep­siCo “looks at their chil­dren, their schools, their spouse’s job, age­ing par­ents – any­thing that affects where they will be com­fort­able work­ing. That way we can build oppor­tu­ni­ties to develop their careers in tan­dem with their per­sonal lives.” I’ll have to check out the mag’ ; thanks for all the infor­ma­tion. Cherry

    • admin says:

      Thank you Cherry. You touched me with your enthu­si­as­tic com­ment. I guess the teacher in me comes back some­times in this blog and I really need to share what I’m pas­sion­ate about. It’s a beau­ti­ful gift when you tell me that you learned from read­ing.
      Diver­si­ty­Inc online is a real gem of inter­views, facts and data, exam­ples, aca­d­e­mic arti­cles, won­der­ful work. Please check them out.
      Won­der­ful to know that it res­onated with you, cherry. Thanks again.

  2. Mar­ion, from the time I was a child I loved diverse peo­ple. Not only do we gain more with women at the table and head­ing cor­po­ra­tions, but we also gain more when we include more cul­tures in top lead­er­ship as well. Thanks for this insight­ful post on Indra Nooyi, CEO at Pep­siCo. Her pri­mary lead­er­ship skill is facil­i­ta­tion and that is a needed skill for future lead­ers as busi­nesses are going in a more col­lab­o­ra­tive direction.

    Ellen Weber is one of the best facil­i­ta­tors I know. She is an achiever as well. I admire these traits and rec­og­nize the many tal­ents behind them.

    • admin says:

      Thank you Robyn for read­ing and com­ment­ing this post, which is one of my favorites. I had no idea really when i started writ­ing this series where it would take me. I started on this project more than two years agao, col­lect­ing sto­ries, videos, arti­cle and try­ing to weave links between this model and the dif­fer­ent women. One has to be very cau­tious, because it’s also about my own pro­jec­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions.
      Reflect­ing on what you once told me about doing your phD, I real­ize that i’d love to check this work with other aca­d­e­mic col­legues. Who knows? It may hap­pen. Right now, I’m just too happy to be doing my own wild,crzy, inde­pen­dant, un-orthodox research, mix­ing comics, cook­ing recipes and arti­cles from the Finan­cial Times or HBR
      Ellen Weber would be a fan­tas­tic role model to study and you too, I’m sure!

  3. Pingback: 12 Women CEOs 12 Different Leadership Styles | Geronimo Coaching Now

  4. Pingback: Chip Conley: The Top 10 Emotionally-Intelligent Fortune 500 CEOs

  5. Pingback: Chip Conley: The Top 10 Emotionally-Intelligent Fortune 500 CEOs | Fall Of The Dollar

  6. Pingback: The Top 10 Emotionally-Intelligent Fortune 500 CEOs | Marcourt's Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>