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9 Indra Nooyi Quotes on Leadership, Diversity, and Business That Will Make You a Better Investor

By Andrew Tonner - Updated Oct 26, 2018 at 1:06PM

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As one of the few non-American-born female professionals running a Fortune 500 company, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi offers a unique perspective on a wide range of issues that matter to investors.

Fortune ranks her as the second most powerful woman in business today. The publication also ranks her as the 14th most powerful woman in the entire world. The company she runs occupies the 44th position on the Fortune 500 list. Simply said, PepsiCo (PEP 0.69%) Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi needs no introduction.

After a hugely successful career, Nooyi took the helm at the beverage giant in late 2006. In her more than a decade at the helm, Nooyi has more than doubled PepsiCo's revenue while also aggressively diversifying the company's product portfolio as demand for healthier foods upended the industry. Like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi is a leading voice on leadership, business, and diversity in the workplace. Here are nine inspirational and interesting quotes from Indra Nooyi that will make you a more insightful investor and person.

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Indra Nooyi quotes on leadership

Without question, Nooyi's work ethic and personal leadership have been fundamental in making her the great CEO she is today. Nooyi's family played a critical role in cementing her legendary work ethic.

Growing up in India, if the young Nooyi claimed she was unable to perform a task, her grandfather would reportedly make her write "I will not make excuses" 200 times. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that Nooyi's deeply instilled sense of responsibility remains as fierce as ever, a sentiment she captures nicely in the following two quotes:

The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organization, you have to improve yourself and the organization gets pulled up with you. That is a big lesson. I cannot just expect the organization to improve if I don't improve myself and lift the organization, because that distance is a constant.

Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I've never forgotten that.

This hands-on management style has served Nooyi well at a time of great upheaval for the broader beverage and snack food industry. Steering PepsiCo toward a healthier and more diversified mix of products required that Nooyi gain the support of her employees throughout the company. Indeed, Nooyi views the ability to inspire people as one of the most important qualities of a leader:

Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.

Indra Nooyi on women and minorities in business

As a woman and a minority in an executive role, Nooyi is uniquely qualified to speak about the racial and gender disparities in the workplace. Interestingly, though, Nooyi's traditional Indian upbringing can at times make her viewpoints seem at odds with more common perspectives toward diversity in the workplace, as the following quote illustrates:

What I would not do is flaunt my Indianness by wearing a saree to work every day, because it distracts from the job. So, I would not do that. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Social events are different. If I feel comfortable in a saree for a social event, I wear it.

Nooyi's characteristic brutal honesty also extends to women's ability to balance career achievement with family life. In discussing Anne-Marie Slaughter's article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" in 2014, Nooyi expressed her views on work-life balance for women, echoing the sentiment of the original article:

I don't think women can have it all. I just don't think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.

However, this isn't to say Nooyi holds a negative view of diversity in the workplace. Case in point, she fully recognized the benefits of leveraging the diverse perspective of all PepsiCo employees to help improve the company:

Most companies target women as end users, but few are effectively utilizing female employees when it comes to innovating for female consumers. When women are empowered in the design and innovation process, the likelihood of success in the marketplace improves by 144%!

Indra Nooyi on business and PepsiCo

PepsiCo's place in the middle of the public health crisis surrounding obesity also makes the CEO an interesting public figure. Rather than skirt the issue, Nooyi prefers to meet the challenge head-on:

One of the world's biggest public health challenges, a challenge fundamentally linked to our industry: obesity.

However, as the head of one of the world's largest soda companies, Nooyi cannot simply shutter the sugary products to which PepsiCo owes its roots. Instead, she advocates meeting somewhere in the middle, as you can see here:

We make a portfolio of products, some of which are "fun for you" and some of which are "good for you." We sell sugary beverages and chips, but we also have Quaker Oats, Tropicana, Naked Juice, and Izze. We're reducing the salt, sugar, and fat in the core products. And we've dialed up the good-for-you offerings because societal needs have changed.

In a broader sense, the actual process of overhauling PepsiCo's product offerings also contained lessons about how the business world as a whole has changed in recent years. Echoing a consistent refrain among business leaders today, Nooyi believes that the pace of innovation and disruption has accelerated, as the following words demonstrate:

It's been a long time since you could talk about sustainable competitive advantage. The cycles are shortened. The rule used to be that you'd reinvent yourself once every seven to 10 years. Now it's every two to three years. There's constant reinvention: how you do business, how you deal with the customer.

With her decades of experience at the highest levels of the corporate world, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is uniquely qualified to discuss business, leadership, and diversity in the workplace. Understanding these important issues is critical for investors everywhere, so hopefully you found these Indra Nooyi quotes interesting and informative.

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