When Indra Nooyi stepped down as PepsiCo’s CEO after 12 years, she would not only be regarded as the first female CEO but a leader whose unique methods changed the trajectory of a multinational corporation.

Let’s take a deeper look into Nooyi’s affiliative leadership style and how you can implement these skills into your workplace.

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What is affiliative leadership?

According to Business Dictionary, affiliative leadership is described as a style where a leader puts the team first. This leader promotes a sense of belongingness in an organization and cultivates relationships with their peers and professionals. The main idea: Maintaining harmony.

So, how did Nooyi embody the characteristics of an affiliative leader?

Indra Nooyi: an actionable, affiliative leader

Among Nooyi's accomplishments, she is a notable leader because of her conscience efforts to place her team first. We’ve listed some examples of how the former CEO exemplified an affiliative leader:

  1. As much we love getting handwritten notes, Nooyi loves giving them out. According to a CNBC article, Nooyi is known to write handwritten notes to her teammates’ parents.
"It occurred to me that I had never thanked the parents of my executives for the gift of their child to PepsiCo."

Indra Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO

Indra Nooyi shared how she upheld her five C's (competency, courage, confidence, communication skills, and compass) of leadership (Courtesy of Youtube)

Nooyi used to write over 400 letters to parents of the executives she worked with because it was a “unique display of gratitude.” She realized that the key to her very own success stemmed from her parents. Acknowledging the parents of PepsiCo members is just one way that Nooyi’s affiliative traits peeked out.

2. One of Nooyi’s secret ingredients as an affiliative leader was the ability to empathize and promote belongingness throughout the PepsiCo culture.

"We want to create an environment in PepsiCo where every employee can bring their whole self to work and not just make a living but also have a life."

In Nooyi’s LinkedIn blog, she mentioned that her family was fortunate when it came to childcare, but acknowledged that’s not the case with all families. It was time that PepsiCo stepped up and did their part to take care of their members.

So what does that look like? That meant drafting and implementing policies that not only impacted professionals but their families too:

  • Daycare centers
  • Generous maternity and paternity leave
  • Work flexibility

What’s the impact of affiliative leadership in the workplace?

According to a 2014 Career Builder survey, about 54% of professionals said they “like the people they work with.”

Your team trusts you. An affiliative leader who looks out for their team creates natural trust. Laying down the groundwork for trust takes a while, but the payoff is sweet: a harmonious team.

Boost in morale. With affiliative leadership, professionals have freedom. And this allows individuals to pursue and pitch projects that they are actually excited about. Morale is higher when voices are heard and creativity is flowing.

Autonomy drives productivity. Because there is trust between all individuals, this leadership embraces a hands-off approach. This way professionals can take the lead and make decisions knowing that their expertise is valued and valid.

Indra Nooyi said to CNBC, "I realized that I could have all the anxieties inside, but to the company I had to project confidence, optimism, a can-do spirit and a must-do resolve." (Courtesy of CNBC)

How to become an uplifting, affiliative leader

Be flexible, stretchy, and bendable. Favorable leaders are those who can adapt. Whether that is in the state of emergency or change in culture, acting appropriately to any scenario shows peers that you are thoughtful and sensible.

Commend your peers. Don’t be afraid to shower your peers in praises. Acknowledging their accomplishments and showing your appreciation will make  your teammates feel valued and that they have a purpose.

Be empathetic. While this is an important skill to practice as a leader, it’s also one to have under your belt as a human. Being able to put yourself in others’ shoes and understand their viewpoint establishes trust between you and your peers. Especially when receiving feedback, affiliative leaders take account of the feelings of their peers.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts, suggestions, or stories with us @MatterApp or reach out via email at dixie[at]matterapp.com. We can’t wait to hear from the people who matter (see what we did there) the most – you!


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Cover Photo Courtesy of CNBC