Postcards

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

PepsiCo boss Nooyi explains her purpose

November 10, 2011: 11:14 AM ET

The best CEOs, I've learned in my 27 years at Fortune, come to the job with a deep-seated passion and a very personal view of what they want to accomplish.

PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi may be struggling lately. Yes, investors are impatient with her healthy-products strategy, the stock is down, and the Pepsi boss dropped to No. 2 behind Kraft Foods (KFT) CEO Irene Rosenfeld on the 2011 Most Powerful Women list.

But no one can deny that Nooyi, who became PepsiCo (PEP)'s chief in 2006, has injected the company with a clear long-term vision and a reputation for being a good citizen of the world.

Nooyi's vision, which she labels "Performance with Purpose," harks back to her days as a girl, growing up in southern India, as she explained in an interview with Fortune executive editor Stephanie Mehta at our Most Powerful Women Summit. In a city with little water, young Indra had to watch her mother go to collect three containers of water everyday. The family used that meager amount for drinking, cooking, and washing, while nearby corporations had more than enough water for their own needs.

You can see Nooyi tonight at 9 p.m. in a CNBC documentary, Pepsi's Challenge. From the MPW Summit, here's Nooyi on what led her, beyond her childhood experience, to "Performance with Purpose":

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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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