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PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Addressed 2013 Tsinghua Management Global Forum
Jul 13, 2020

On the evening of October 23 Tsinghua SEM welcomed Ms. Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, to the 2013 Tsinghua Management Global Forum as a keynote speaker. The event has been a traditional part of Tsinghua SEM’s annual Advisory Board meeting. Ms. Nooyi shared her life experience and elaborated on her 5Cs of leadership with the audience of Tsinghua students and faculty.

A graduate from Yale School of Management with master's degree, Ms. Nooyi had worked in various companies like Boston Consulting Group, Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri before she joined PepsiCo and finally became the helmsman of the company. Reflecting on her legendary career and years of experience in business, Ms. Nooyi encouraged Tsinghua students to take the great opportunity of the changing times, to undertake their due responsibilities and to explore new ways of doing business. She discussed the secrets of her success and the desired credentials of effective business leaders, which she summarized as 5Cs of Leadership:


Curiosity. Successful business leaders ask why from time to time. Every time they ask why, they find a better way and an all-round view of understanding the issue. Taking the example of Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs, founders of Starbucks and Apple Inc., Ms. Nooyi emphasized the importance of curiosity: success belongs to people who explore beyond the surface to find answers.


Creativity. Creative people always ask the question "is there a better or different way to get things done?" Employees who are able to speak up with curiosity and then do things differently with creativity catch the attention of their boss, said Ms. Nooyi, based on her own managerial experience. She also cited Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, to illustrate how creativity has changed China and Chinese people's lives. She encouraged students to rewrite the rules and create the future because creativity is the soul of business.


Citizenship. Different from widely accepted idea of "corporate social responsibility", Ms. Nooyi considers citizenship as "how to make money" rather than "how to spend money". As the chief architect of PepsiCo's Performance with Purpose Initiative, Ms. Nooyi insists that a company should make profits that could stand the test of time for sustainable development. To do business in a responsible way requires not only good investment for shareholders, but also a good environment for employees, a thoughtful consideration of consumers, a good citizen in communities as well as a good steward of natural resources on the planet. According to Ms. Nooyi, the value for business should be consistent with the value for the society.


Courage. It is better to be fired for doing the right thing than the wrong, while doing the right thing needs courage, said Ms. Nooyi. She recalled the acquisition of Tropicana in 1998, when she was not yet CEO of PepsiCo and made the decision to carry on with the acquisition despite the disapproval from most of her colleagues. Her courage at that time originates from the belief that it is the right thing for PepsiCo. Now it is one of the best decisions she's ever made. Ms. Nooyi encouraged students to stand by their decisions against criticisms from the outside, as courage is the greatest of all virtues.


Communication. Disapproving of the traditional saying "he who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know", Ms. Nooyi favors "he is the strongest who knows and knows how to speak". Having participated in debate competition in India, Ms. Nooyi never expected she would struggle in her oral communication course in Yale, which made her realize that speaking fast didn't equal good communication. After three months’ arduous practice, she passed the exam and grasped the critical importance of communication. In her view, communication helps mobilize with the outside world and get people to do the right thing.  


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