Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Kraft and PepsiCo CEOs' global bets

September 8, 2009: 2:04 PM ET

The Most Powerful Women in Business list is coming out this week. On Thursday you'll find out who rose, who fell, and who newly arrived on Fortune's annual rankings of 50 U.S. women leaders and 50 bosses of businesses abroad.

No sooner did we send the package to press on Friday than one of the list regulars, Kraft Foods (KFT) CEO Irene Rosenfeld lobbed a $16.7 billion bid to acquire Cadbury (CBY). Kraft is already the largest food company in North America. If she succeeds with this deal, Kraft would become a $50 billion-a-year global giant.

Rosenfeld was No. 2 on last year's MPWomen list, just a notch behind PepsiCo (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi, who has led our rankings since 2006. I went up to PepsiCo headquarters last week to interview Nooyi. And though I've spent my 25-year career at Fortune closely watching this ever-expanding corporation (and have known the three CEOs before her), I'm struck that Nooyi has a global view unmatched by her American-born predecessors.

At last year's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, Nooyi told Time Inc. (TWX) CEO Ann Moore, in an on-stage interview, that she intends to visit 80 countries in her first five years as chief executive. Three years into the job, Nooyi is well on her way. She visited China and Russia this past summer.

This year's Most Powerful Women issue--and web coverage--will include parts of my interview with Nooyi. But right now I'll give you a sneak peak of a few things that the PepsiCo boss said:

On China: "The Chinese are very comfortable about themselves and China's place in the world scene. More so now than I've ever seen. They think their government is doing the right thing—that the way the government put the stimulus into shovel-ready projects is the right way to go."

On Russia: "Whether it comes to Mr. Putin or Mr. Medvedev, the Russians are very, very confident that they're taking them in the right direction. I left Russia feeling good about Russia. There is problem with Russia, and it's demographics. They have a population that's declining by half a million people every year."

On career paths: "To me, to say 'What's the next job?' is the most terrible thing you can do. If you're so focused on the next job, you forget how to do your existing job."

On power: "It's a terrible word, first of all. You have sway over many people. Power is dangerous in the hands of someone who doesn't understand the responsibility."

I told Nooyi that my favorite definition is one that Oprah Winfrey told me years ago: "Power is the ability to impact with purpose."

"That's a great one. A great one," Nooyi replied. "Impact with purpose—if people interpreted power as just that, then power is an okay work."

Watch Postcards this week and next for lots more MPWomen news. Also, if you can, catch me co-hosting Squawk Box on CNBC this Thursday 8-9 a.m. EST. Our guests will be Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz, Xerox (XRX) chairman Anne Mulcahy and Meredith Whitney, the much-watched analyst who calls the ups and downs in the banking industry quite powerfully.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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