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Saturday, 9th December 2023

Respect Difference

The President and CEO of Pepsico, Indra Nooyi, is regarded as one of the most influential business leaders in North America. She was asked to give a commencement address to business graduates at Columbia University, and her speech sparked a flood of debate and discussion. She used the old Indian saying 'our five fingers are never the same' to show the importance of diversity in business and to appeal to future business leaders to respect the countries and cultures they work with and not stamp all over them, as American business had a habit of doing in the past.

 The full text of the speech is reproduced here in Business Week.

This is leadership with a vision. It is also diverse leadership - she is a 'minority' in America who has climbed to the top of the ladder - there are an equivalent number of minorities in Britain, but how many have made it to such heights? Why not? Do we have structures and leaders who 'disable' diversity?

Indra Nooyi also places a high value on 'cultural' intelligence and sensitivties among business leaders. In Britain, these are clearly not valued high enough in terms of top management - therefore we must ask ourselves why not? In an era of globalisation, cultural intelligence is critical to many aspects of leadership.

She also uses faith in her speech in a subtle way. 'Ascribe positive intent to all your business transactions' - can be read as saying that put your faith into the transaction and ask for the support of the divine or of nature to help you execute it. This suggests that faith is a major driver behind her personality. Evidence in Britain shows that there is a huge amount of faith illiteracy among modern leaders, and this is proving to be a major handicap. Faith, ethics and integrity are interwoven, and in the twenty-first century, these are qualities which are very critical to successful leadership.

Article added on 16th December 2009 at 9:25am