5 Secrets to Designing the
By Paul Witkay, Founder & CEO, Alliance of Chief Executives
I recently listened to a Freakonomics interview with Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, one of the most respected CEOs in the world. Institutional Investor magazine named her one of the "Best CEOs" from 2008 to 2011, and in 2017, FORTUNE named her the #2 "Most Powerful Woman in Business."
Indra, who will be retiring this year, was reflecting on how she had no experience as a CEO before taking the reins of PepsiCo in 2006. Within two years, she was confronted with the 2008 financial collapse and dramatic changes in retail markets, and had to learn quickly how to lead her organization through crisis.
Indra was asked if it was lonely at the top, and she responded that it was "incredibly lonely." Every CEO knows this to be true. When you're responsible for calling the shots to balance the short and long-term interests of shareholders, customers, employees and the communities in which you operate, the only ones who fully understand the pressures you face are other CEOs.
So how did Indra respond to these challenges? In addition to her incredibly busy schedule, she made sure to invest time to meet regularly with a private group of CEOs that included the leaders of IBM, Xerox, J&J, GE and American Express. She found it exceedingly valuable to learn how other CEOs viewed the changing world and made difficult decisions to move their companies through major transitions.
I've often heard people refer to the Alliance of CEOs as a "peer group," and it's always bothered me. A peer group is typically defined as a group of people who share certain social characteristics, such as age, class, occupation, education or similar interests. However, CEOs are tremendously diverse in age, educational background, life experience and expertise, and we believe that we learn far more from people who think differently.
When we launched the Alliance of CEOs in 1996 in the fast-paced San Francisco Bay Area, our world was just beginning to be revolutionized by the Internet and globalization. We carefully designed the Alliance to create a unique environment for CEOs to learn faster, make better decisions and move forward with greater confidence.