To be clear about this, there are also many male leaders that I admire. As an executive, I look to both men and women in leadership positions for inspiration and learning opportunities. When I think of leaders that I admire, a few well-known names definitely come to mind – Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, and Indra Nooyi – just to name a few. However, there are other, perhaps less well-known names that are equally impressive and worthy of note including Melinda Gates and Angela Merkel. In this entry, I am going to focus on three of these individuals, one from the corporate world, one humanitarian and one political leader. To be sure, each of these women have achieved things on such a global scaled that anyone striving to “make a difference” can learn something from understanding more about these extraordinary women.
Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, has routinely appeared in articles or lists of the top women in business over the past several years. I first became aware of her when my husband was doing work with PepsiCo back in the mid-1990s. In his the course of his work with PepsiCo, he met with Ms. Nooyi who was then serving as the senior vice president of strategic planning. After a visit with her in Purchase, NY, he noted just how down to earth and incredibly astute she was. It was clear to him that she was a stylistic and intellectual force to be reckoned with. It’s been well documented that she occasionally wears her traditional Indian sari to company functions, patrols the office barefoot at times and even sings in the halls. Moreover, she had her own all-girl rock band when she was younger and is a diehard NY Yankees fan. Despite the tremendous stresses of her position, she seems to be able to lead with a sense of spirit and fun.Her drive and ambition, however, led to her appointment as president and CFO in 2001 and subsequently, in 2006, named CEO, making her one of the most prominent women in Corporate America. To be sure, PepsiCo is not only a Fortune 100 company, but also a repetitive member of the most admired companies in
Next on my list is Melinda Gates. Perhaps you recognize her surname, and if you do, you may make the connection that Mrs. Gates is in fact Mrs. Bill Gates. But, despite being the wife of one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Mrs. Gates is not always living the cushy life. In fact, she often finds herself in some of the most desperate places on the planet. As co-chair of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world, she helps control the power of the purse for the charity – an amount exceeding $37 billion. The charity, with influence from Mrs. Gates, has decided to focus on health issues, including the eradication of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as ending hunger and poverty around the world. Additionally, the foundation seeks to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology within the
Armed with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and economics as well as an MBA from
Last, but by no means last in any way, is Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. What is so impressive about Ms. Merkel is that in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, she was working as a researcher in physics at the Institute for Physical Chemistry, East German Academy of Sciences in
What I admire most about Angela Merkel is her leadership style which she describes as think, consult and then decide. She uses this approach to skillfully balance Germany’s relationships with the U.S. as well as Russia, to have impressively led two global summits, to achieve her stated goal of improving Germany’s economy with unemployment at five-year lows and solid GDP growth, and to attain a popularity rating of 75%, making her one of the country’s most popular leaders ever. She has achieved all of this having traveled a most unusual path for German politics – she comes from
As I have noted here, leaders come from all walks of life be it business, politics or humanitarian fields. And while I singled out women leaders, clearly success as a leader is agnostic to one’s gender. During my own personal and professional life, I have been fortunate to be witness to some truly commendable leaders who have taught me many things that text books or schooling could never have done.
Nina nets it out: Don’t think that leadership is gender-specific or even tied to one’s field. Great leaders shine no matter how they apply their capabilities. I’ve learned many things from heeding the lessons that these leaders have espoused via their actions. Who has inspired you through their leadership?.